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Season Preview 2014/15: Western Sydney Wanderers

It’s been a dream off-season for the Western Sydney Wanderers. Barely two years since their inception as a club, they have progressed through to the final of the 2014 Asian Champions League, sweeping aside Asian giants FC Seoul and Marcelo Lippi’s Guangzhou Evergrande. Justin Tickner looks at why Western Sydney fans should be expecting more of the same from their side in the upcoming A-League season:

Signings

Despite losing quality of the likes of Shinji Ono, Youssouf Hersi and Jerome Polenz, Tony Popovic and the Wanderers have moved quickly to seek replacements for the myriad of positional players they’ve lost since their heartbreaking defeat to Brisbane Roar on Grand Final day. Michael Beauchamp and Adam D’Apuzzo have both departed from the stable Wanderers defensive line, to be replaced by Antony Golec, Daniel Mullen and Brendan Hamill.

Further up the pitch, Hersi, Ono and Aaron Mooy’s absence creates an opportunity for new signings Romeo Castelen and Vitor Saba. Saba, in particular, looks like one to watch out for this year, with his style of play and physicality having held him in good stead throughout the latter stages of the Wanderers’ Asian Champions League run.

Issues

Quite simply, there’s going to come a point in the not too distant future when the Wanderers’ hectic travel schedule will have to catch up with them. Having galavanted across Asia for the last few months, the back-to-back trips to Wellington and Perth in November, in particular, may prove a difficult period for the squad. In fact, those two trips will form a busy period of 4 games in 15 days for the Wanderers, due to the re-scheduling of their clashes against the Mariners and the Roar.

Perhaps, though, there will be some respite in the closing stages of the season, with the Wanderers not leaving New South Wales for the final three weeks of the regular season.

One to watch

Vitor Saba

To date, Saba has already been involved in a red card controversy, drawn the ire of Marcelo Lippi and the entirety of the highly-touted Guangzhou Evergrande squad, and been touted as a fan favourite by the Red and Black Bloc. Not bad for a guy whose only featured 4 times for the boys from Parramatta, and the majority of those appearances have been off the bench.

Between the controversy, however, we’ve already seen glimpses of the kind of play that Tony Popovic will be expecting of the Brazilian this season. One mazy run against FC Seoul in Korea a few weeks ago drew audible gasps from both the home fans and the commentators at the game, and displayed both his technical prowesss and his strength over the ball.

Given Shinji Ono’s impact over the last few seasons, few would expect Saba to be at that level in his first season in the A-League. But from what we’ve seen, he’s going to give it a real shake.

Final Thoughts

The Wanderers’ schedule for the next year depends a lot on the two-legged Asian Champions League final coming up at the end of the month, with the winner qualifying for the 2014 Club World Cup in Morocco in December. If that eventuates — and, granted, it’ll be a nice problem to have — the Wanderers’ fixture list will become even more congested. More games will need to be rescheduled, and with the Asian Cup in January already forcing this season to be both compacted and extended at the same time, Western Sydney could find themselves with more ’4 games in 15 day’ situations.

However, despite that, it’s difficult to bet against a team that has just qualified for a continental Cup final from making the final 6 of the local competition. Particularly, when you have a future Socceroo star up forward (Tomi Juric) who’s simply scoring for fun at the moment.

Pre-Season Results

Macarthur Rams 0-1 Western Sydney Wanderers — Santalab

Canberra FC 0-1 Western Sydney Wanderers — Sotirio

APIA Leichhardt 0-1 Western Sydney Wanderers — Topor-Stanley

East Riffa 2-1 Western Sydney Wanderers — Fofanah

Al Jazira 1-2 Western Sydney Wanderers — La Rocca, Appiah

Western Sydney Wanderers 1-0 Guangzhou Evergrande (ACL) — Juric

Guangzhou Evergrande 2-1 Western Sydney Wanderers (ACL) — Juric

FC Seoul 0-0 Western Sydney Wanderers (ACL)

Western Sydney Wanderers 2-0 FC Seoul (ACL) — Poljak, Cole

About the author

avatarJustin is a passionate football fan, and the Editor-in-chief of Ultimate A-League.

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