Friday afternoon’s 15th Sydney W-League Derby game is the most eagerly anticipated in years. The Western Sydney Wanderers will host bitter rivals Sydney FC at Bankwest Stadium in a top of the table clash that will be about a lot more than three points.
The Wanderers go into the game in third spot only two points behind their neighbours but with a game in hand.
Western Sydney’s record against the Sky Blues isn’t pretty reading, with only one win and a draw from 14 encounters. However, the Wanderers of 2019/20 are a different team to that of yesteryear.
The Wanderers have quality all over the park, starting with Abby Smith in goals. The American custodian has been in excellent form this season and already has 16 saves to her name.
In front of Smith, the combination of Alex Huynh, Sam Staab, Courtney Nevin and Erica Halloway have proven to be a tough nut to crack.
Those five will have their work cut out on Friday up against Sydney FC’s excellent attack. Leading the way for the Sky Blues is the league’s leading goal scorer Remy Siemsen, who along with Matilda Caitlin Foord and Angelique Hristodoulou has been a nightmare for opposition teams.
Siemesen, who played for the Wanderers last season, but then switched back to her first W league club in the Sky Blues, is excited about coming up against her former club.
“Its going to be a big game, I want to help the team whatever way I can,” Siemsen told Sydney FC’s website.
“Obviously they have been doing quite well this season but so have we. Definitely is a battle for 90 minutes. Whichever team wants it more on the day will come out winners; I have true confidence in my team and our ability to get the job done on Friday.”
Siemsen paid tribute to her team for helping her lead the scoring charts with six goals, admitting she wasn’t expecting to be at the top at this stage of the season.
“I really wasn’t, I mean I knew heading into the season I just wanted to be scoring a few goals,” she said.
"To be able to say I'm top of the leader board at the moment, its pretty amazing. Its been great team performances, I couldn’t be scoring the goals without my team, if we can continue that it would be great.”
The Wanderers have their own super stars this season, with Lynn Williams and Kristen Hamilton challenging Siemsen and Foord as the best attacking duo in the league. Hamilton has scored four goals whilst Williams has one herself and two assists.
Playing just behind the star American duo is Irish import Denise O’Sullivan. The back to back North Carolina MVP has settled in well at Wanderland and is a major reason why Williams and Hamilton have been running opponents ragged.
O’Sullivan admitted she was looking forward to her first Sydney derby experience.
“Yeah, I have heard a few things about it,” O’Sullivan told the Wanderers website. “It is very exciting and obviously to play at Bankwest Stadium in a Derby is really cool.”
The Wanderers are fighting for a finals birth for the first time in 2019/20 and O’Sullivan insists her team is also ready to go for what will be their biggest game of the season.
“It will be a tough game. Sydney FC are a fantastic team and have some fantastic individual players. I know a few of them.
“It’s going to be a challenge for us but one we are up for.”
O’Sullivan and co won’t have it easy with Aubrey Bledsoe in the Sydney FC goals making 21 save already this season. Bledsoe along with Matilda Alanna Kennedy and championship winning skipper Teresa Polias won’t make life easy for the Wanderers ever creative midfield and forward line.
The game should have plenty of heat with Siemsen and Ellie Brush coming up against the Red and Black for the first time since departing for the blue side of Sydney. On the flip side, western Sydney girl and Matilda Amy Harrison, will be coming up against the team she won two W-League titles with.
Harrison was born and bred in Camden and along with Huyn and Nevin will be looking to fly the flag for their home town club as they look to overcome a derby hoodoo.
It promises to be a thrilling game on Friday with kickoff set for 5pm.