It’s easy to forget that the Wanderers and Melbourne City remain the adolescents of the Hyundai A-League, which makes the current position of both clubs all the more commendable as they face off tonight.They haven’t been separated by much on the table in recent times but the two newest kids on the block are worlds apart in their journey to feel at home in a league that has often proved infertile ground.
TICKETS AVAILABLE FOR TONIGHT'S TOP-OF-THE-TABLE CLASH AGAINST MELBOURNE CITY.
The Wanderers took to the Hyundai A-League like a duck to water but for City – or the then Melbourne Heart – it’s been at times a struggle to keep themselves afloat. The growing up phase for the Melburnians has been undeniably complicated, yet off the back of a debut semi-final appearance last campaign, John van’t Schip’s men are beginning to shrug off their Jekyll and Hyde tag to slowly convince that they are an indispensable part of the football furniture.
This was all but confirmed in an important win against the Wanderers last month. City can mix it with the best and worst of the league but to belong to the elite as the Melbourne club have aspired to, you must beat the elite.
And despite the controversial manner of the victory, they made the significant statement of intent they were after in a clash that lived up to its billing as one of the matches of the season.
Incidentally, the match highlighted how far Western Sydney Wanderers versus Melbourne City has flown under the radar in the grand nexus of Hyundai A-League rivalries.
Often relegated to the backseat in the face of the so-called “Big Blue”, for what this burgeoning rivalry lacks in commercial pulling power it makes up for in its inherent capacity to produce a memorable moment. Although it might play second fiddle to the older and bluer siblings, it’s a rivalry that has grown organically and has remained hugely relevant in the eyes of the viewing public. That’s no mean feat.
It might not grab the headlines like the league’s seasoned rivalries but this clash is more than capable of supplying one or two of its own. After two outstanding matches this season it’s clear that there’s something in the alchemy of this fixture that guarantees fireworks, theatre or plain chaos of some shape or form.
The most recent incident threatened to take the Hyundai A-League’s youngest feud to new levels of antagonism after the Wanderers were denied a winning goal that would have extended an unbeaten run to 11 games.
It’s upon this sense of lingering injustice in the heat of battle that rivalries can be hardened. There’s a score to settle tonight and the side has history on their side in their bid to avenge Round 14’s 3-2 loss.
In 11 meetings between the two sides Melbourne have won just twice – and never away from home.
Back at the scene of the clubs’ first showdown, both the Wanderers and City have done a lot of growing up since their late introduction.
They’re both the league’s newest players but there’s no doubt a complacent City have been thoroughly outshone by the Wanderers since their arrival, like the gifted younger sibling whose achievements fly in the face of an older brother with concentration issues.
It might not be the Melbourne v Sydney derby 2.0, but the momentum of this clash continues to gather with each passing season. It has the potential to be truly explosive.