Western United will go in search of a first win of the new Isuzu UTE A-League Men season when Sydney FC come to AAMI Park for the Green and Black’s home opener.
Western United vs Sydney FC
Sunday, 16 October
Kick-off: 5:00pm AEDT
AAMI Park, Melbourne
John Aloisi has made one change to his extended 20-man squad, with Tomoki Imai forced out of the side due to a shoulder injury.
The Japanese defender underwent surgery to repair the issue in his AC joint and is expected to return to the pitch in 6-7 weeks, allowing Ben Collins to come into the extended list.
1. Jamie YOUNG (gk), 4. Leo LACROIX, 5. Dylan PIERIAS, 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, 33. Ben COLLINS, 37. Ryan SCOTT (gk), 38. Noah BOTIC, 44. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 88. Neil KILKENNY, 99. Aleksandar PRIJOVIC.
Last time out
United fell to a narrow 2-1 defeat to Melbourne City in the Round 1 Grand Final rematch on Friday night.
Despite a strong start to the game which nearly produced a debut goal for James Troisi, City went 2-0 up before youngster Nicolas Milanovic pulled one back in injury time, but United fell just short of clawing back a point and will now look ahead to a home fixture against the Sky Blues.
A three-game unbeaten run against Sydney was ended in February when Steven Lustica’s strike secured a 1-0 win, which was later officially listed as a 3-0 result due to Sydney breaching substitute regulations.
In total, Sydney leads the head-to-head battle with four wins to United’s two, with one draw between the two sides coming last season.
Key Matchup: Josh Risdon vs Robert Mak
Robert Mak enjoyed a goal-scoring debut for Sydney last weekend, but this weekend he will come up against Western United’s star right-back Josh Risdon.
United’s vice-captain ranked second in the league in tackles and was in the top 20 in interceptions last season and will look to continue his strong run of form against quality opposition..
Wearing No.11 for Sydney, Mak will face a stern test against Risdon who will hope to win his individual battle and set his side on the way to victory.
Player to Watch: Steven Lustica
Of Lustica’s 17 A-League Men goals, the United No.10 has scored more against Sydney FC than any other team with five strikes against the Sky Blues, three of which came in the Green and Black.
Lustica scored a stoppage-time winner to give United its first win against Sydney in August 2020 before finding the net twice in a matter of 11 days in February against Steve Corica’s men last season.
After scoring five times last season for his joint-most prolific campaign, Lustica extended his contract with the Club and could continue that stellar run of form with another strong display against Sydney FC.
Words from John Aloisi
On the options to replace Tomoki Imai
“We’ve got options. Nikolai came in and did well against Melbourne City. We have Jacob Tratt that can play in the centre of defence, he did that a lot in Adelaide. We also have Ben Collins that can fill in that position so we have depth there.”
On the response from the team after defeat in Round 1
“I’ve liked it a lot, the boys have reacted really well. There were still a lot of positives from the game, obviously we come out of it with no points and you’re disappointed, but there were a lot of things to like.
“The training has been really good. The boys were hurt, and that’s normal but the reaction has been great.”
Words from the playing squad – Nicolas Milanovic
On starting the season off with a goal last week
“It’s a positive to get a goal early, confidence is high because I’ve had a good pre-season. The boss has taken more trust in me, bringing me on earlier and giving me more game time.
“For me, it’s just about keeping on giving him that trust when I come on and perform, so he has no problem when someone’s injured or I need to come in and I’m ready to do the job.”
On the lift the players get from the fans ahead of United’s first home match
“Fans are your 12th man, they rev you up and they give you a buzz to win the game. You can see the numbers are getting higher and higher in that end.
“If you see from the first year to now, it’s improved so much so if we can keep building on that and the fans keep revving us up, I’m sure we can give them what they want.”