Western United will go in search of back-to-back wins to start the Isuzu UTE A-League Men season, taking on Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday night.
Isuzu UTE A-League Men Round 2
Western Sydney Wanderers vs Western United
Saturday, 28 October
Kick-off: 7:45pm AEDT
CommBank Stadium, Parramatta
Broadcast: The match will be broadcast live on 10Bold and Paramount+
John Aloisi has named an identical extended squad to the one he brought into last week’s season opener against Melbourne City.
After the 2-1 win in that game, the boss will hoping for similar performances from his group to secure a second win of the campaign.
Goal scorers Lachie Wales and Noah Botic will hope to hit the mark again, while James Donachie will test his fitness to make his league debut for the Club. Nikita Rukavytsya is edging closer to match readiness, but will not feature this weekend.
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
Last time out
It was a dream start to the 2023/24 season last week, with United clinching a stunning 2-1 win against rivals Melbourne City.
Lachie Wales opened the scoring just after half-time but Tolgay Arslan equalised moments later for City with a neat team move.
Western United had the final say on the night when Noah Botic dispatched a penalty in the 87th minute, securing United’s first Round 1 win since the Club’s first ever match in 2019.
Western United has faced Western Sydney nine times in its history and has enjoyed a strong record against them across those meetings.
United has won five out of the nine matches, with one draw and three wins for Western Sydney. Of those five victories, three came in consecutive meetings across 2022.
Key Matchup: Tomoki Imai vs Marcus Antonsson
After a brilliant defensive display against Jamie Maclaren and Melbourne City, Tomoki Imai will hope to find similar form in the face of one of the league’s most exciting attacking imports this season.
Swedish striker Marcus Antonsson joined Western Sydney for this season with UEFA Champions League and Europa League pedigree as well as over 100 goals in almost 400 total appearances throughout his career.
Imai remains one of the competition’s best central defenders and will hope to prove that yet again when he lines up against Antonsson, and indeed Brandon Borrello alongside him.
Now the Club’s leading appearance maker among active players, Imai has stepped into a vice-captain role this season and will be eager to continue his positive start to the season.
Antonsson’s three goals in the Australia Cup gave everyone a glimpse of his quality and he will be aiming to open his account in the league, with Imai looking to stand in his way.
Player to Watch: Noah Botic
Fresh from his breakout 2023/24 season in the Isuzu UTE A-League, Botic picked up where he left off with his ice-cold winner in Round 1 last week.
Perhaps more impressive than the goal itself was Botic’s work-rate and graft up front. It wasn’t a game where things came easy for the young striker, but his application and work across the final third was indicative of his ever-growing maturity and development.
The goal was just reward for his performance and got the ball rolling in a season where Botic will hope to continue announcing himself to the world.
That will give him the confidence to approach this clash against the Wanderers with the same amount of enthusiasm and look to get on the scoresheet for the second week running.
Words from John Aloisi
On making a perceived statement of intent against title favourites
“We go about our business the way that we will. We understand there are others that would be classed as favourites to win it, but we understand where we’re at and what we’re trying to achieve.
“We just have to keep improving and take each match as it comes, because we know every game is hard. We understand, but we’re confident with what we’re building and we’re confident in the squad we have, that we can be competitive.”
On a reunion with Nicolas Milanovic and Dylan Pierias at Western Sydney
“We know both Dylan and Milo really well, so we don’t have to speak too much about them in the pre-game analysis. We know their qualities, we know what they’re good at, so we have to be aware of that.
“But it’s not only them – we know the quality of Ninkovic, we know the quality of Borrello and Antonsson. We know they’ve got good players, and we just have to be aware of all of them.”