Western Sydney forward Brendon Santalab takes a photo of Wanderers supporters after scoring last season.
Western Sydney forward Brendon Santalab takes a photo of Wanderers supporters after scoring last season. DEAN LEWINS

Barbs fly ahead of Sydney derby

FOOTBALL: If the Sydney derby is anything as good as the pre-match barbs then we should be in for a thriller at ANZ Stadium tomorrow night.

First there was Sydney FC captain Alex Brosque saying earlier this week that "we hate every single one of them”.

Then his coach, Graham Arnold, who is never backwards in coming forwards, said the venue for the A-League opener was only on loan to the Western Sydney Wanderers for their "home” game tomorrow night.

Arnold said: "ANZ is our stadium.

"We're loaning the Wanderers our stadium for the game.

"We've played Chelsea, we've played Tottenham there, played Newcastle there last year too, so it's more our stadium than theirs.”

Arnold also said that with the number of changes in the Wanderers line-up, his team, with new signings such as Josh Brillante, Bobo and Alex Wilkinson, held the edge when it came to big games such as the derby.

"They've got 15 or 16 new players this year,” he said.

"(Our new players) are all experienced players, they've all played in big games.

"Josh has played in Italy; Wilkinson has played overseas, national team and a World Cup; and Bobo's the same. They have come from big clubs, so that won't affect them at all.”

Arnold's bait was eaten up by counterpart Tony Popovic, who bit hard when told of Arnold's comments.

"I don't think he knows too much about our side, so he's alluding to something he doesn't know much about,” he said.

"I hope once they watch us tomorrow they'll know us very well.”

After making three grand finals in four years, Popovic said he was hoping for more success in this campaign but was looking for his team to do something it had not done before: achieve a victory in round one.

"We're confident, we're optimistic,” he said.

"We wanted to challenge for honours in year one and we expect to do the same this year.

"There's a high expectation tomorrow - we expect to win.”

The Sky Blues are undefeated in their past seven games against the Wanderers.

They would appear to be the favourites again tonight, with skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley to miss for Western Sydney through suspension.

New signing Robert Cornthwaite would appear to be the obvious replacement, while Argentine marquee playmaker Nicolas Martinez and Japanese signing Jumpei Kusukami look set for a debut to remember.

Cornthwaite will likely have his hands full with Bobo set to be joined in an attacking line-up beside Filip Holosko, David Carney, Serbian playmaker Milos Ninkovic and fit-again captain Alex Brosque.

Another new signing, Bernie Ibini, could also be named among the substitutes despite not having played since overcoming a bad leg break suffered at the start of last season.

Brendon Santalab is the Wanderers' biggest attacking threat, having scored in his past five games.

He was not buying into the pre-match banter.

"There's a red and black net here so it's clear to see we're at home,” he said.

"I don't know where Arnie pulled that one from. He loves a pre-game banter.

"We won't buy into that - we're very focused on what we have to do.

"It's our job to play. Sledging has never been a part of me before games - it's all about preparation and focus.”

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