Western United returns to New South Wales in the Isuzu UTE A-League Men, taking on Sydney FC on Saturday evening.
Isuzu UTE A-League Men Round 9
Sydney FC vs Western United
Saturday, 23 December
Kick-off: 5:30pm AEDT
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Broadcast: The match will be broadcast live on Paramount+
John Aloisi will ask his players for more of the same after a big win against Brisbane Roar last week, naming an identical 20-man extended squad.
Daniel Penha and Lachie Wales were instrumental in that win over Brisbane and will hope to link up again, while Rhys Bozinovski will be out to build on his first performance of the season from the bench last time out.
Nikita Rukavytsya and James Donachie remain sidelined but the rest of the Western United squad is fit and ready to perform in Sydney.
Aloisi himself will watch the match from the stands after his red card in the Brisbane game.
Western United squad: 1. Tom HEWARD-BELLE (gk), 6. Tomoki IMAI, 7. Ramy NAJJARINE, 8. Lachie WALES, 9. Michael RUHS, 10. Steven LUSTICA, 11. Daniel PENHA, 13. Nikita RUKAVYTSYA, 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 (gk), 38. Noah BOTIC, 39. Matthew GRIMALDI, 42. Rhys BOZINOVSKI, 77. Riku DANZAKI
Last time out
Western United put an end to its luckless run of results with a superb victory against Brisbane Roar, winning 2-1 last Friday night.
It was filled with drama but United ultimately got the result it deserved as Penha scored from the penalty spot and Josh Risdon won it with a header in stoppage time.
Since John Aloisi took over as Western United boss there has been an even split of results in previous meetings with Sydney FC – two wins, two draws and two losses.
Sydney enjoyed the better of the head-to-head battle prior to that with three wins to United’s one, but recent contests mean this one looms as another entertaining affair.
There were goals galore the last time the two teams met with a thrilling 3-3 draw at Allianz Stadium in April.
Key Matchup: Josh Risdon vs Robert Mak
Not only was he the match-winner last week, but Josh Risdon was one of the best players on the pitch in arguably his most influential performance of the season so far.
Aloisi has heaped praise on his captain in the lead-up to this fixture and the right-back will be well placed for another strong display.
A big threat going forward and an impenetrable object at the back on his day, Risdon will need to use every bit of that quality to handle Sydney’s Robert Mak on Saturday.
Mak, and indeed Joe Lolley on the other flank, is one of the best wingers in the Isuzu UTE A-League and is constant headache for his direct opponent.
The Slovakian international has scored once this season and found the net three times against Western United across last season.
With that in mind, Risdon will be keen to stop Mak from scoring against his side once again and if he can do so, United will be in with a chance of taking victory.
Player to Watch: Daniel Penha
Moving into a more central position last week against Brisbane, Penha was unstoppable and is only continuing to get better as he grows into his new team.
The Brazilian maestro was behind just about all of Western United’s good work and finally got his goal after having hit the crossbar and had another goal disallowed during the game.
His ability to roam across the pitch and find pockets of space to get on the ball is unmatched in the Isuzu UTE A-League and when he does find the ball with time to look up, he can do things that few others in the competition can.
Continue to build on his form, Penha will be out to have another match-winning impact up front and help his side earn consecutive victories.
Words from John Aloisi
On the persistence of the group and keeping the belief
“Everyone is in a good space because of that win that we ended up deserving. We performed well, things didn’t seem like they were going to go our way but the boys didn’t drop their heads, they kept going and playing the football we want to play.
“It’s been positive, but we also know we’re still trying to improve and we’re working hard together. We know we’ve got a difficult game on Saturday, but they’re looking forward to it.”
On Josh Risdon’s leadership and importance to the team, typified by his performance last week
“I thought that was Rizzo’s best performance on the weekend. A lot of people see his end product going forward but we see a lot of what we want to see defensively. On the weekend, he was outstanding.
“He led by example. It was always going to happen, after playing like that and leading like that, that he was going to be the one to step up and score the winning goal.”