Western United will do battle with Melbourne City once again in the Isuzu UTE A-League Men, taking on its crosstown rival in Round 11 action on Sunday night.
Isuzu UTE A-League Men Round 11
Western United vs Melbourne City
Sunday, 7 January
Kick-off: 5:00pm AEDT
AAMI Park, Melbourne
Broadcast: The match will be broadcast live on Paramount+
Tickets – use code 2FORWUN for $20 family tickets
John Aloisi will welcome back his captain for this one with Josh Risdon returning from suspension after missing last week’s defeat to Newcastle Jets.
Ramy Najjarine is also set to make his return after being named in the extended squad, having missed the last two matches with a minor foot complaint.
Lachie Wales, Ben Garuccio and Matt Sutton are all in the extended squad and will be out to defeat their former side, while Kane Vidmar is in line to take on his uncle Aurelio, who is the current head coach of Melbourne City.
Western United squad: 1. Tom HEWARD-BELLE (gk), 6. Tomoki IMAI, 8. Lachie WALES, 9. Michael RUHS, 10. Steven LUSTICA, 11. Daniel PENHA, 17. Ben GARUCCIO, 21. Sebastian PASQUALI, 22. Kane VIDMAR, 24. Connor O’TOOLE, 27. Jacob TRATT, 32. Angus THURGATE, 33. Matt SUTTON (gk), 35. Max BISETTO, 38. Noah BOTIC, 39. Matthew GRIMALDI, 41. Oliver LAVALE, 42. Rhys BOZINOVSKI, 49. Jake NAJDOVSKI, 77. Riku DANZAKI
Last time out
Western United was made to rue a sloppy opening 20 minutes last time out, falling 2-0 to Newcastle Jets away from home.
Trent Buhagiar scored twice in that opening period and while United threatened the Jets’ goal thereafter, there was no way back into the match.
Western United has had plenty of ups and downs over a number of thrilling meetings with Melbourne City down the years.
Since Aloisi took over as head coach, United boasts four wins to Melbourne City’s three, one of which was of course the Grand Final success in 2022.
The Green and Black will also carry confidence from the previous meeting, where Wales and Noah Botic struck to secure a 2-1 win in Round 1 of this season.
Key Matchup: Tom Heward-Belle vs Jamie Maclaren
Melbourne City will be hungry for more after their incredible 8-1 win over Brisbane Roar last week, with Jamie Maclaren on a high after scoring a hat-trick.
But the City striker will face stiffer competition this week with Tom Heward-Belle continuing to shine in his first season at Western United.
The No.1 has made the fourth most saves in the league entering this round of matches and has repeatedly shown his athleticism in goal.
Whether it be pure shot-stopping or speed of though and movement to come off his line, Heward-Belle has relished the opportunity for first-team football and will be looking for a repeat of his Western United debut, where he was magnificent against City in Round 1.
Maclaren has seemingly returned to full fitness and will be out to prove himself in the next month in particular having been left out of the Socceroos squad for the upcoming Asian Cup.
Heward-Belle will need his reactions to be at their very sharpest to keep out Maclaren who will be looking to extend his prolific record in previous meetings with Western United.
Player to Watch: Michael Ruhs
After a period out of the squad, Michael Ruhs has made excellent impact off the bench in the last three matches and will be out to impress if given the opportunity again.
Yet to score for Western United in the Isuzu UTE A-League, Ruhs has come as close as he possibly could in each of the last three matches with two goals disallowed for offside and an effort striking the post.
Ruhs’ explosive pace and athleticism make him a threat to any defence and he can also find himself in good positions to get on the end of things in the box.
If United’s No.9 takes to the field again on Sunday, he will look to play with the same tenacity and energy that he has done in the last three weeks to record his first league goal in Green and Black.
Words from John Aloisi
On if a win against City could be a catalyst for an upturn in form
“We’re hoping so. We’re hoping that we put on the performance that we did in Round 1. We know it’s a different Melbourne City with a new coach, but we know them and we know AAMI Park.
“So we’re looking forward to it. We really think that if we perform at our best, we’ll get the result and hopefully that kick starts our season.”
On facing Melbourne City’s threat coming off their 8-1 win
“We know their strengths, we know they’ve got quality all over the field. Every single position is an outstanding player, but that’s Melbourne City – they’ve been like that for years now.
“We knew that Round 1 when we came up against them, we knew that when we beat them in the Grand Final, that player for player, they’ve got probably the best, if not one of the best teams in the league.
“They caught Brisbane on the break a lot, so we have to make sure we don’t allow that to happen. But we can’t look at that too much and be too worried about it, we have to make sure we play our game.”