Although the Sky Blues have points on the board, they are still showing signs of early season rustiness, and have struggled to get their best eleven on the pitch.Like the Wanderers, Sydney have played their best football in transition but have been far from clinical in front of goal.
Only the Mariners (36) have taken more shots on goal than the Wanderers (33) and Sydney (29), but the two sides have converted just 8% (10th in the league) and 9% (9th) of their chances respectively.
A return to Allianz Stadium, where the Sydney Derby produces an average of 3.25 goals per game, could be just what the two sides need to open the floodgates.
Whilst Sydney have been lining up in a 4-4-2 formation, there’s no telling how the shape of Graham Arnold’s side will evolve during the game. The Sydney bosses’ in-game management is up there with the best and his ability to nullify a problem area through a tactical switch or swift change in formation is a huge asset in big games such as these.
He might not be able to select his preferred back four just yet but his defence will still offer plenty of resistance and danger going forward.
Seb Ryall is always a reliable performer for Arnold’s team, whether in the centre of defence or on the flank. He continues to get forward well this season, picking up dangerous positions both on the overlap and when charging inside.
The versatile Rhyan Grant has been Ryall’s fullback partner on the left. It’s not the 24-year-old’s most natural position and he’ll always look to step back onto his stronger right foot. There’s every chance that Alex Gersbach will come in to provide a more balanced, natural option at left fullback, especially in order to contend with the trickery of Romeo Castelen.
Meanwhile, a central defensive partnership of Matthew Jurman and Jacques Faty isn’t universally popular with Sydney fans but they’ve started their last two games together and are good readers of play – Jurman alone has made 12 interceptions this season. They’ll both need to improve in the challenge though, especially against the physicality of Federico Piovaccari.
In midfield, Arnold has unearthed a gem in former Perth youngster Brandon O’Neill, who has taken to a defensive midfield role with impressive aplomb, shielding the defence and generating attacks from deeper midfield without a glitch.
O’Neill has slotted seamlessly into a midfield that contains two Serbian Milos’ – both Dimitrijevic and new visa signing Ninkovic. The box-to-box Dimitijevic, who made a clean sweep at the Sydney FC awards night of last season, is an integral part of the Sky Blues set up and offers consistency and guile in the attacking third, whilst Ninkovic has looked the part in his first two A-League games.
The Sky Blues have an array of varied options in both the wide and front positions. Should Arnold persist with the 4-4-2 starting formation deployed against the Jets last week, the returning Andrew Hoole could provide competition to both Chris Naumoff and captain Alex Brosque on the left. The former Jets livewire is spoken of in high terms by the Sydney manager and is in line to make his A-League debut for the Sky Blues come Saturday night.
After escaping suspension for a nasty challenge on Jets keeper Mark Birighitti, Shane Smeltz looks set to lead the line again, with Brosque and marquee Filip Holosko providing support as part of a front two, three or even from wide in the 4-2-3-1 formation Arnold favoured last season.