Western United is back in action in the Isuzu UTE A-League Men and faces a blockbuster opening round contest against rivals Melbourne City.
Isuzu UTE A-League Men Round 1
Melbourne City vs Western United
Saturday, 21 October
Kick-off: 5:30pm AEDT
AAMI Park, Melbourne
Broadcast: The match will be broadcast live on Paramount+
John Aloisi could give league debuts to as many as seven players in his squad as his new-look side prepares to tackle the 2023/24 campaign.
The likes of Daniel Penha, Angus Thurgate and Riku Danzaki could all be in line to feature in Green and Black for the first time in the Isuzu UTE A-League amongst an exciting attacking contingent for United.
Nikita Rukavytsya does not feature in the extended squad as he continues to work towards match fitness after joining the Club late last month.
Western United squad: 1. Tom HEWARD-BELLE (gk), 4. James DONACHIE, 6. Tomoki IMAI, 7. Ramy NAJJARINE, 8. Lachie WALES, 9. Michael RUHS, 10. Steven LUSTICA, 11. Daniel PENHA, 17. Ben GARUCCIO, 19. Josh RISDON, 21. Sebastian PASQUALI, 22. Kane VIDMAR, 24. Connor O’TOOLE, 27. Jacob TRATT, 32. Angus THURGATE, 33. Matt SUTTON, 38. Noah BOTIC, 39. Matthew GRIMALDI, 42. Rhys BOZINOVSKI, 77. Riku DANZAKI
Aloisi has put his men through their paces over the off-season and is buoyant about the side’s development approaching the opening fixture of the season.
A number of new signings have shone in Australia Cup and friendly matches and the entire squad is entering the season fit and raring to go.
The most recent friendlies have seen a win against Western Sydney Wanderers and a draw against Adelaide United, giving the Green and Black confidence to carry into the season opener.
There have been 13 meetings between Western United and Melbourne City in the past with the Green and Black having enjoyed some of its most famous results across those fixtures.
None is more memorable than the Isuzu UTE A-League Grand Final on 28 May 2022, which United won 2-0 to claim its first piece of silverware.
Overall, United has beaten City four times but struggled to break them down last season, losing each of the three meetings.
Key Matchup: Angus Thurgate vs Tolgay Arslan
Already in Round 1, this matchup features a battle between arguably two of the best midfielders in the competition with United’s new signing Thurgate going up against City’s international recruit Tolgay Arslan.
Thurgate arrive at the Club from Newcastle Jets in the off-season and has fit seamlessly into United’s young core, immediately adding significant quality and energy into the Green and Black midfield.
His ability on both sides of the ball and his engine across the pitch will be vital for United throughout the season, especially against Arslan this weekend.
Having spent almost 15 years playing in the German Bundesliga, the Turkish Super Lig and the Serie A in Italy, Arslan’s experience and proven quality will be a big boost to City’s ranks.
The midfield battle will be extremely important on Saturday evening, with Thurgate hoping to get the better of his opposite number and set United on its way to victory.
Player to Watch: Daniel Penha
There is an obvious choice for the player to watch this week, with Penha set to make his long awaited return to the Isuzu UTE A-League.
Penha dazzled, sparkled and mesmerised in the league two seasons ago, immediately showing himself to be one of the best players in the competition.
Now returning to Australian football, Penha will hope to bring the same form in the Green and Black and pick up right where he left off.
Back to full fitness and with the boost of a goal in the friendly win against the Wanderers, Penha is ready to put the Isuzu UTE A-League on notice once again.
Words from John Aloisi
On the new-look squad and a fresh style of play for this season
“We’ll be very dynamic, we’re exciting going forward, we can press for longer periods, we can really make sure that we put the opposition under pressure.
“You’ll see that the players are willing to work for each other, and we’ve got quality. We’ve got a number of new players that give us that energy throughout the team.”
On facing a much-changed Melbourne City side in Round 1
“It will be a difficult game no matter what, even if they’re chemistry is not quite there. We played them twice in pre-season so it’s been good to get a gauge of where they’re at and where we’re at.
“We know what they’re capable of doing, they’ve got some really good players, but we believe we match up well against them.”