Date: Monday, December 31, 2012
Kick-off: 8pm AEDT, 7.30pm local
Venue: Hindmarsh Stadium, Adelaide
Played 24: Wins: Adelaide 10, Sydney FC 11, Draws: 3
Sydney FC 1-2 Adelaide, November 23, 2012
Past five matches:
Sydney FC: DWLLW
After a stunning start to the season, there seems to be a few cracks appearing with the Reds, who have hit a slight dip in form with losses in their past two matches. John Kosmina's side are still well placed in second spot but they'll be eager to stop the rot before it becomes a habit. Sydney's season of doom and gloom showed the first signs there could be better days ahead with a courageous 1-0 win over league leaders Central Coast in their last match. The result lifted the Sky Blues off the bottom of the ladder for the first time in six weeks and they are back within striking distance of the top six. The Reds have no new injury worries from their last-start loss to Brisbane, although Kosmina may ring a few changes to try and freshen up his jaded side. Meanwhile, Sydney could have a host of key players available again after Pascal Bosschaart, Jason Culina, Terry McFlynn and Fabio all missed the win over the Mariners. The big question is will Frank Farina want to change a winning side. When the two sides met earlier this season, a late Dario Vidosic goal handed Adelaide a well-deserved 2-1 win at Allianz Stadium.
The big issue:
Adelaide – Much of the Reds' success was credited to their early start to the season due to their involvement in the Asian Champions League. But it may be coming back to bite them now with the side looking a little fatigued as we approach the midway stage of the season. Kosmina and his coaching staff will need to find ways to freshen the squad up before these little hiccups become a full-blown slump. The good news for Adelaide is the depth of their squad with the likes of Sergio van Dijk, Jon McKain, Zenon Caravella and Iain Ramsay all options to start some games now after hardly being sighted so far this season.
Sydney – The jam-packed festive season schedule is great for the fans but can be hard for the players to back up, especially if they are running on 38-year-old legs. Alessandro Del Piero is vital to Sydney's chances of winning matches but Farina will need to be smart about how he manages the Italian's workload. Given the Sky Blues played a physical match against the Mariners on Thursday night, it might be asking a lot of Del Piero to back up for another big game just four days later. Sydney will need to get the call on their marquee man right if they are to maintain his health and also continue to rise up the table.
The game breaker:
Yairo Yau – Del Piero rightly gets much of the attention for Sydney but the Panamanian flyer is another who has been in reasonable touch for the Sky Blues this season. Yau gives Sydney something they don't have a lot of which is blistering pace and he has chipped in with several vital goals this season, including one against the Reds last month. Adelaide central defenders Iain Fyfe and Nigel Boogaard have been in good form this season but lack pace and this could be one area Sydney could get some joy, especially with Del Piero feeding him from behind.
Prediction: Adelaide 2-1 Sydney
A week ago this match would have seemed a formality for the home side. The Reds were in brilliant goalscoring touch while Sydney looked like they would struggle to beat a park football team. But heading into this one it's Adelaide scratching around for some form while the Sky Blues have rediscovered some confidence. The big question for the Sky Blues is whether they can back up their tremendous effort and fight against the Mariners just four days later? Del Piero's ability to back-up again after a short turnaround could also be key and if he doesn't play that might just give Adelaide the edge.