Following their impressive win against Kashima Antlers and incredible comeback from three goals down in the Sydney Derby, the Wanderers are back and ready to go against Guangzhou Evergrande to defend their Asian crown.
While every match is important, it’s the Red & Black’s first home match against Asian heavyweights Guangzhou Evergrande that fans will be eagerly awaiting.
This will be the second year running fans will get to see Tony Popovic’s men face off against the reigning Chinese Super League champions after successfully getting past Evergrande on their way to last year’s title.
As is the case with local derbies, it’s the fans and moments that help mould rivalries – and Wanderers vs Evergrande certainly has all the ingredients; controversy, passion fans and a narrative to match.
Marcello Lippi‘s dummy spit, red cards and the disgraceful behaviour by Guangzhou fans all added to the build-up of the second leg as the Red & Black won on away goals.
When the two teams were drawn together in the group stages there was collective excitement as all involved in Asian football looked forward to see the rivalry continue.
It’s no surprise fans are looking forward to this match more than any other as it’s well known that Australian’s love an underdog and never has there been a more classic David vs Goliath story than Wanderers vs Evergrande.
Wanderers and Guangzhou are at polar opposites when it comes to footballing life cycles with Evergrande sitting as a well-established matriarch of Asian football for 60 years while the Wanderers are a two-year-old punk kid, albeit with a lot of swag.
And while Western Sydney have had a remarkable run since inception, culminating in last year’s ACL win, their achievements pale in comparison to that of the most successful Chinese club since CSL inception in 2004.
The sheer financial gulf between the two sides has also been well documented with Guangzhou arguably the richest club in Asia in a league without a salary cap.
But despite the disparities the only thing that really matters is the ledger and when it comes to that it’s the Wanderers that have the advantage.
When the two sides met in last year’s Quarter Final many pundits had Guangzhou as favourites to take out the title and gave Western Sydney little chance of progressing any further in the competition.
Tomi Juric was the hero for the Red & Black last time around scoring the winner in their 1-0 home victory and snatching the all-important away goal in Guangzhou which allowed the Wanderers to progress through to the semis and eventually take out the title.
Whatever the result this time around, the outcome is set to create more interest and intrigue in an opponent and fixture that could one day develop into a rivalry as deep and as passionate as any derby in the A-League.
Tickets are still available from Ticketmaster while fans out of town can watch live on Fox Sports 505. Kick-off is at 7:30pm.