Round 1 of the Isuzu UTE A-League Men season is finally here, and the new campaign is set to begin with a bang as Western United takes on Melbourne City in a Grand Final rematch at AAMI Park.
Melbourne City vs Western United
Friday, 7 October
Kick-off: 7:45pm AEDT
AAMI Park, Melbourne
Broadcast: The match will be broadcast live on Paramount+
New signings James Troisi, Tongo Doumbia and Jacob Tratt could all be in line for their Western United debuts, while Sebastian Pasquali is in the squad for the first time since the final round of the 2020/21 season.
1. Jamie YOUNG (gk), 4. Leo LACROIX, 5. Dylan PIERIAS, 6. Tomoki IMAI, 7. Tongo DOUMBIA, 8. Lachlan WALES, 9. Dylan WENZEL-HALLS, 10. Steven LUSTICA, 11. Connor PAIN, 14. James TROISI, 17. Ben GARUCCIO, 19. Joshua RISDON (c), 21. Sebastian PASQUALI, 26. Nicolas MILANOVIC, 27. Jacob TRATT, 37. Ryan SCOTT (gk), 38. Noah BOTIC, 44. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 88. Neil KILKENNY, 99. Aleksandar PRIJOVIC.
Western United enjoyed a positive pre-season period, bringing in fresh faces and building match minutes with a number of competitive friendly matches.
John Aloisi’s men remained unbeaten through the pre-season friendly schedule with six wins and one draw from seven matches, which included three games against A-League Men opposition.
Young stars Nicolas Milanovic and Rhys Bozinovski featured prominently while the likes of Lachie Wales, Connor Pain and Josh Risdon continued to show their quality ahead of the season opener.
The most recent meeting between these two teams will live forever in Western United folklore as the Green and Black defeated City 2-0 in the A-League Men Grand Final on May 28.
A Nuno Reis own goal and a strike from Aleksandar Prijovic secured United’s first Championship and maintained the side’s strong record against its crosstown rival.
After losing each of the first five matchups, United has gone unbeaten in the subsequent five with four wins and a draw, including three victories in the 2021/22 campaign alone.
Key Matchup: Ben Garuccio vs Andrew Nabbout
Ben Garuccio and Andrew Nabbout will go face to face at left-back and right-wing respectively with both players aiming to make their case to be selected for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Garuccio would be as worthy as any of a spot after an outstanding debut season at Western United, which ended with him winning the Club’s player of the season award.
A mainstay in Aloisi’s side, Garuccio provided six assists and two goals in the final third as well as contributing to United’s staunch defensive structure on the way to winning the Championship.
In Nabbout, Garuccio will go up against a two-time A-League Men Champion and a 10-times capped Socceroo, with his last appearance for the national team coming in November 2021.
Both players will be eager to shine with limited matches before the World Cup, and Garuccio will hope to put in another top performance to help United in the match and help his national team chances.
Player to Watch: Lachlan Wales
After arguably his best season in the A-League Men last time out, Wales has carried that form into a scintillating pre-season and is ready to go for his third season in Green and Black.
The No.8 had his most productive campaign in the final third with nine goal contributions in 2021/22 and is another that could be eying off a spot on the plane to Qatar.
A former Melbourne City player, Wales will be up for a big season opener to begin what he hopes will be another big season.
Words from John Aloisi
On the attitude of the team heading into a Championship defence
“We want to keep on improving and be a team that keeps on getting better and evolving as a team.
“The biggest thing for us was not having that complacency, because that can happen when you get some success. From the word go I could see that the boys were motivated and ready and excited, and trained probably even harder than they did last pre-season so that’s a positive.”
Words from the playing squad – Ben Garuccio
On chasing more silverware
“I want everything. I’m a winner, I’m never happy at training if I don’t win. I want to win every game and I hope that we’ll be up there and I’m confident that we can be if we play to our potential.”
On the team becoming the ‘hunted’ in the A-League Men
“Whether that’s added (motivation) for other teams we’ll wait and see, but for us it’s been about improving no matter what. The coaches for us have been fantastic in pre-season, pushing us again to get to that next level.”