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ISSUE 18 FEBRUARY 21

magazine

THE HUNT FOR

GLORY

PERTH CLASH PROVES VITAL

THEY SING FOR

WANDERERS

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WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS VS PERTH GLORY KICKOFF: SATURDAY 9.45PM @ NIB STADIUM | TV: FOX SPORTS 1 LIVE 9.45PM | RADIO: ABC LIVE 9.45PM

THE WANDERERS AT TRAINING ON TUESDAY. PHOTO: MELINDA JANE

PREVIEW BY ELISHA PEARCE

Popovic’s juggling act T

HE WANDERERS RESUME ACTION as they travel to Perth and take on the Glory on Saturday evening in the A-League. After a week off the Wanderers will need to immediately kick into top gear. The game in Perth will be followed quickly by a Wednesday night match at Pirtek Stadium against Korean team, Uslan Hyundai in the Asian Champions League group stage. With the trip to Perth begins the stretch of 13 games in just under two months, a brutal

and thumped the Glory 3-1 in front of their home crowd to reinvigorate the team and its support base. Since then the Wanderers have secured two draws; one against table-topping Brisbane Roar in their most recent match, in which they dominated large portions of play. On the other hand the Glory has been on a string of poor results, including that Wanderers loss. They have scored a goal but lost the match in all of their last four outings.

All of this indicates a match the Wanderers should win, but in Perth, you never know what is going to happen. The main factors to consider are the make-up of the team and whether Popovic can keep the squad focused. It’s natural to look ahead to highlights on the horizon. All of us punters at home long for our long weekends and holidays to arrive sooner, similarly it will be tempting for the Wanderers squad to take a peek at the

Polenz so one of them is in top physical condition to play the important holding midfield position in front of the defence in the ACL. That could alter how the team lines up this weekend. Another consideration is the return from injury of Tomi Juric. The Wanderers best striker came off the bench again against the Roar and it might be prudent to only start him in one of these matches so soon after time on the sideline.

The Wanderers and Glory last met on Australia Day, with Western Sydney coming away from Pirtek Stadium with an impressive 3-1 victory stretch of the schedule Tony Popovic has been planning for all year. What will make an upbeat feeling around the Wanderers’ camp is the memory of the last match against the Glory. The game came on the back of a few weeks of lacklustre performances and accusations in the media the team was experiencing a sophomore slump or being undermined by Popovic’s rotation policy. On Australia Day the Wanderers came out

That run means the last competition point they scored was back on January 17 against the Roar, a match they should have won after playing with a one man advantage. Last time the Glory took home all three points was January 14, against a Melbourne Heart team that still hadn’t won a match all season. The result is a plummet down the ladder with them currently sitting in ninth place and 10 points adrift of the Wanderers and four points short of a finals place.

calendar and think about the upcoming ACL. That sort of distraction is what causes upsets in a tight competition such as the A-League. At the same time the team will have to prepare in advance for that match on Wednesday night. That will likely include Popovic selecting a team with that in mind. He may opt to rest either Matthew Spiranovic or the recently injured Jerome

Shinji Ono has struggled to recover for matches at times this year and it wouldn’t surprise if he is rested for the match against the Glory, or at least brought off the bench. Amid all the speculation and protection of players the expectation will still be a victory this weekend, a tricky tight rope to walk. The Wanderers will play a tight compact game this week, not falling behind at all costs and win with superior counter-attack and set pieces. WANDERWORLD | 3


ADAM PEACOCK

P R O U D LY B R O U G H T T O Y O U B Y Y O U R L O C A L M C D O N A L D ’ S S T O R E S

Can an Aussie team do it? ADAM Peacock is a respected sports journalist who is currently part of the Fox Sports team covering the 2013/14 A-League season

N

OW IT REALLY STARTS. We’ve been through 20 rounds of the A-League, and clubs have positioned themselves for the business end of the season, both on the table and with personnel. For three of the big guns in the A-League, the task is imposing, as there is an Asian Champions League campaign to contend with. Next week, Melbourne Victory, Central Coast and Western Sydney Wanderers start their six group stage matches against Japanese, Chinese and Korean opponents. In the past few years, Australian clubs haven’t paid total attention to detail when it comes to the ACL.

Timing is one thing – trying to win one comp (A-League) while trying to survive in another (Champions League) with so much travel involved is a unique situation that is hard to deal with. The Asian clubs playing in the competition are just starting their domestic leagues, so they have an advantage in that sense. Sheer economics is another. The relatively small budgets of our sides compared to say a Guangzhou Evergrande is like comparing the GDP of China to Guam. So to this year’s edition. Can an Australian side get out of the group to play in the knockout stages? Central Coast did it last season, but it would be a surprise if they did it again.

They’ve got to get past Japanese champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Korean giants FC Seoul and Chinese side Beijing Guoan. Melbourne Victory too have a monumental task to escape their group with the richest club in all of Asia and last year’s winners Guangzhou Evergrande first. Yokohama F Marinos and Jeonbuk Motors complete their group. As for the Wanderers – I reckon they’ve got the best chance of the three to do something. It’s obvious with the way Tony Popovic (pictured) has juggled his team during the past two months. 13 games in around 50 days until the end of the A-League regular season explains why he’s been doing what he’s done.

The Hyundai A-League kicks off LIVE tonight at 6.30pm on FOX SPORTS 1HD & FOX SPORTS 1

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F E AT U R E S T O R Y

TONY POPOVIC SPEAKS TO THE MEDIA ON TUESDAY. PHOTO: MELINDA JANE

STORY BY NATHAN TAYLOR

Tough schedule ahead AFTER A WEEKEND OFF, THINGS ARE ABOUT TO GET VERY BUSY FOR THE WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS WITH THREE GAMES IN THE SPACE OF A WEEK TO PREPARE FOR...

W

ESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS COACH Tony Popovic says his side have enjoyed their break, but now it’s time to get stuck into the pointy end of the season. Speaking at training on Tuesday, Popovic said the two-week break between games came at the right time with his side set to endure a gruelling few months courtesy of the AFC Champions League.

“The break came at a good time with the busy schedule we’ve got coming up. It was an opportunity for us to work on a few things at training and give some of the boys some down time as well,” he said. “We won’t get too many days off from now on. It was good, the boys have enjoyed the week but now we’re ready to take on Perth [this weekend].” In the space of eight days, the Wanderers

will play three games beginning this Saturday evening in Perth followed by their first AFC Champions League game against Ulsan Hyundai this Wednesday night at Pirtek Stadium. Popovic said he was yet to finalise a squad for the Wanderers’ first encounter with the South Korean champions and wasn’t sure which players would back up from the Perth game on Saturday night. “It’s a new experience for all of us at the club, the staff and players included, but we’re looking forward to the challenge,” he said. “We’ve got to take care of Perth first, that’s the most immediate concern for us,

to play well in that match. We’ll then shift our attention to a tournament that’s very prestigious. We know our fans and the club is looking forward to it and we want to represent the A-League well.” The Wanderers take on Perth Glory this Saturday night in Perth at nib Stadium. The two sides only met less than a month ago on Australia Day where the Wanderers produced one of their best wins of the year downing Glory 3-1. “We know it’ll be a tough game, they’re a good side at home and they’ve proven they can get results in front of their home crowd,” Popovic said.

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KEEPING UP WITH COVIC

Break did us the world of good GOAL keeper ANTE Covic gives us a player’s perspective on the Western Sydney Wanderers with an exclusive column every single week

I

T HAS BEEN TWO weeks since we last played against the Brisbane Roar and the break has been a positive one for not only myself but the rest of the team. It was good to get a longer break after Brisbane as it gave us more time to recover leading into this upcoming busy period. It’s been a tough week of training but I’ll be honest when last weekend came around and the other A-League games were on I so badly wanted to be out there as well. Having said that, getting niggling injuries out of the way courtesy of the break was probably the best thing for us. Speaking of that busy period which involves the AFC Champions League beginning on Wednesday, the side’s mindset leading into it is really good at the moment. We had an intra game against ourselves last Saturday which allowed us to be in a gamelike situation. Training was also very intense last week but very beneficial as well.

We know we are coming into a busy period but we know at the same time that most people would love to be in our shoes playing in the AFC Champions League and travelling to Asia. As busy as it is going to be I think everyone is really looking forward to having the opportunity to play. It will be a fantastic couple of months for us. But before all that starts we have a very important game against Perth Glory this Saturday night. With Brisbane losing last week, a win against Perth will edge us closer to them meaning we still have something very big to play for. The Perth road trip is a tough one due to distance and time difference and is probably, along with Wellington, the trip you’d least like to take. But we’ve handled ourselves quite well over the last two years and we know it’s

going to get even tougher once we are flying to Asia, so a four and a half hour trip we’re going to have to put up with, deal with and believe we are a much better team than Perth and take home the three points. On another note, it was great to see the Foxtel A-League All Stars event launched this week in Sydney. I had the opportunity to play in the game against Manchester United last year and I would love to have the chance to do it again against Juventus in August. It’s brilliant we can bring these teams to Australia and if you’ve got the opportunity to play against teams like that you take it with both hands because it doesn’t happen too often.

Would you like to ask Ante Covic a question? He’s more than happy to answer it in his column! Email your questions to news@westernweekender.com.au.

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ANS OF THE WESTERN Sydney Wanderers have been in fine voice this year, riding the highs and lows of the season with their team. Melinda Jane has captured plenty of the fun in the stands this season...

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A-LEAGUE LADDER POS

CLUB

W

D

L

F

A

GD

Pts

1

Brisbane Roar

12

2

5

33

17

+16

38

2

Western Sydney Wanderers

8

7

4

23

19

+4

31

3

Adelaide United

7

6

6

30

24

+6

27

4

Melbourne Victory

7

6

6

26

29

-3

27

5

Central Coast Mariners

7

6

6

19

22

-3

27

6

Sydney FC

8

1

10

25

28

-3

25

7

Wellington Phoenix

6

5

8

26

28

-2

23

8

Newcastle Jets

6

5

8

20

25

-5

23

9

Perth Glory

5

6

8

19

22

-3

21

10

Melbourne Heart

4

6

9

23

30

-7

18

LEGEND W Wins A Points Against

D Draws GD Goal Difference

L Losses Pts Ladder Points

F Points For

UPCOMING

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Wanderworld issue 18 Printed by:

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Editor:

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Contributors:

Nathan Taylor, Elisha Pearce, Adam Peacock, Melinda Jane, Justin Todd

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W A N D E R B I T S W I T H W A L LY T H E W A N D E R E R

Japanese ref gets A-League start WALLY the Wanderer has all the gossip on the Western Sydney Wanderers

T

HE A-LEAGUE UNLEASHED ITS first ever Japanese referee last weekend during the match between the Brisbane Roar and Newcastle Jets as part of a referees exchange program between the FFA and Japanese Football Association. The program is designed to help referees from both countries gain valuable international experience as well as expose players in the A-League and Japan to different styles of officiating. Takuto Okabe took the whistle on Sunday afternoon and will also officiate the Round 24 clash between Melbourne Heart and the Central Coast Mariners. The FFA has launched the 2014 National Premier Leagues (NPL) season for the semiprofessional state-based competitions in Australian football. The second edition of the NPL see clubs from eight of FFA’s member federations participate with clubs from Northern NSW Football, Football Federation Victoria and Football West competing for the first time. “The formation of a standardised National Premier Leagues competition was a key component of our national football development plan. This year we will see youth teams from some Hyundai A-League clubs compete in their respective NPL competition to ensure that our most talented players maximise their development opportunities by being able to play competitive football 12 months a year,” FFA boss David Gallop said. The NPL kicks off today in Adelaide. It’ll certainly be interesting to watch.

LUKE PRIDDIS

This week’s Wanderers super fan is Jackson Jarnet! The 10-year-old is arguably the biggest Wanderers fan and he’s favourite player is Wanderworld columnist himself, Ante Covic. If you would like to be pictured in my column, simply send a pic of yourself in your Wanderers gear to news@ westernweekender.com.au. The Western Sydney Wanderers National Youth League side have gone down to the Brisbane Roar 2-1 last Saturday. The only Wanderers goal came via Jake McGing in first half injury time. The Wanderers will play Perth Glory this Sunday. Five Wanderers players have been selected for the 23-man Young Socceroos training camp. Daniel Alessi, Alusine Fofanah, Lawrence Hanna, Thomas Manos (gk) and Shayne D’Cunha were all selected in preparations for the AFC U19 Championship in Myanmar in October. I am hearing whispers that some clubs believe the A-League season is too long and would support a reduction by around four weeks. For clubs in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, the business end of the season constantly gets swamped by the launch of the NRL and AFL seasons, and all of a sudden the A-League is off the back pages and news reports at a crucial time of the year. Whilst it’s never good to concede ground to other sports, would it make more sense to wrap the A-League up before the other major sporting codes begin?

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Wanderworld February 21