Western United will renew hostilities with Melbourne Victory in the Liberty A-League Women, heading to The Home of the Matildas on Saturday evening.
Liberty A-League Women Round 11
Melbourne Victory vs Western United
Saturday, 6 January
Kick-off: 6:00pm AEDT
The Home of the Matildas, Bundoora
Broadcast: The match will be broadcast live and free on 10Play, and on Paramount+
Kat Smith submitted an unchanged 18-player extended squad for this clash, working with the same group of players that has given her a positive start to her Western United tenure.
Twin sisters Adriana and Melissa Taranto will face off against their former side, as will Grace Maher and Emma Robers. Maher and Adriana Taranto will edge closer to career milestones, making their 99th and 49th Liberty A-League appearances.
Keiwa Hieda is named in the side and will be looking for a repeat of her heroics last time United faced Victory, when she scored a 90th-minute winner to secure a 2-1 win.
Kahli Johnson and Catherine Zimmerman remain sidelined, but Smith hinted that both players are nearing their returns.
Western United squad: 1. Alyssa DALL’OSTE (gk), 2. Stacey PAPADOPOULOS, 4. Jaclyn SAWICKI, 6. Chloe LOGARZO, 7. Kiara DE DOMIZIO, 9. Hannah KEANE, 11. Emma ROBERS, 12. Lucy RICHARDS, 13. Avaani PRAKASH, 14. Natasha DAKIC, 15. Adriana TARANTO, 16. Melissa TARANTO, 18. Grace MAHER, 19. Tyla Jay VLAJNIC, 20. Keiwa HIEDA, 21. Hillary BEALL (gk), 22. Alana CERNE, 24. Julia SARDO
Last time out
Western United was left frustrated last time out, failing to capitalise on a dominant second half to settle for a point in a 1-1 draw against Canberra United.
An Alana Cerne own goal gave Canberra the lead in the first half before Adriana Taranto equalised with 15 minutes to play, taking her season tally to a joint-team high of three.
Melbourne Victory continue to be a leading team in the Liberty A-League and have strengthened their squad even further this season.
With the return of Alex Chidiac last week, Victory could just about put together an entire starting XI of capped Matildas with quality and experience in abundance.
Emily Gielnik has been named in Victory’s extended squad for this match and could return to the pitch, with Elise Kellond-Knight patrolling the midfield and Lydia Williams in goal.
Victory and Western United currently sit neck and neck on the table and both sides will relish the opportunity to move beyond the other and look further up the table.
Key Matchup: Chloe Logarzo vs Elise Kellond-Knight
This clash will be headlined by a battle of two Matildas stars in midfield as Chloe Logarzo goes head-to-head with Elise Kellond-Knight.
Logarzo is continuing to get sharper and sharper each week and has been on fire over the last month for United, dictating games from midfield with her quality and energy.
The No.6 has scored two goals in the last four games including the brilliant winner against Perth Glory, and she will be looking to dominate once again on Saturday.
Kellond-Knight came into this season in a rather similar situation to Logarzo, coming off a long-term injury and looking to get back to playing regular football.
After missing Round 1 and coming off the bench in Round 2, Kellond-Knight has started each of the last eight fixtures for Victory and has been central to their work in possession.
Logarzo will be hoping to disrupt Kellond-Knight’s rhythm in possession and get forward to punish Victory’s goal on the way to what would be an important three points in Western United’s season.
Player to Watch: Jaclyn Sawicki
Jaclyn Sawicki is yet to score for Western United, but if the last few weeks have been anything to go by then the first goal is just around the corner.
Getting more involved further forward, the Philippines international is having a greater impact on matches in the final third and is threatening opposition defences.
The co-captain came within inches of finding a winner against Canberra on two occasions, thumping the post with one effort and firing another narrowly wide of the post.
Sawicki has already attempted more shots (11) than she did in the entirety of last season (7) and if she can find joy going forward on Saturday, she could be a key player in helping Western United to secure the win.
Words from Kat Smith
On taking the lessons out of the draw with Canberra United last week
“I was really disappointed with the result, probably more so because of our second half performance and the pressure we put on Canberra’s goal.
“We’ve got to take that learning on how we as a group, staff and players, can amend changes earlier on in the game to swing the momentum and nullify some of the threats of the opposition. And then, we focus on what we’re good at and sticking to our style of game.”
On the challenge of facing Alex Chidiac and how the side can nullify her impact
“Collectively. We back our individual players, but more so we know that, collectively, we’re predictable with what we do without the ball.
“Defensively we know we’ve got the right structures and we’ve certainly got the qualities within individuals to carry out the plan as well.”