Western United and Melbourne City prepare for colossal derby clash

Both Western United and Melbourne City are expecting reinforcements for their top-of-the-table, immovable object meets an irresistible force battle on Saturday, but still might be missing two of their biggest weapons. 

Though his chances of playing in the subsequent fixture against Sydney FC are good, United coach John Aloisi confirmed on Friday that Italian star Alessandro Diamanti was set to miss tomorrow’s derby, while City coach Patrick Kisnorbo described winger Mat Leckie as a “day by day” proposition that “could be” a chance to play. 

Diamanti will now miss his fourth game since departing in the 65th minute of his side’s 3-2 win over Western Sydney Wanderers with a knock, taking the 38-year-old’s number of fixtures missed this season to six. 

Leckie, 31, was absent from the City side that comfortably defeated Macarthur FC 3-1 on Wednesday evening after he injured an adductor in his side’s 2-2 draw with Perth Glory the week prior. 

The affliction cut short a run of form that had seen the Socceroo attacker shrug off a slow return to the A-League Men after a decade in Germany to score six goals in his last seven games. 

“It’s day by day,” Kisnorbo said of Leckie. 

“We need to see how he pulls up today. And then we can make our decision based on how he’s feeling. We’ll know more after this morning’s training session. 

“I think Griff [Rostyn Griffiths]  will maybe not be ready for tomorrow. Scotty [Scott Galloway] could be there or thereabouts. So, again, we’ll need to see how Scotty goes.”

Melbourne City attacker Mat Leckie was described as being “day by day” by coach Patrick Kisnorbo
Image Credit: Melbourne City

Manuel Pucciarelli was also absent from the City squad that faced the Bulls with what Kisnorbo confirmed was a “coach’s decision” but could feature in a game carrying significant stakes for both sides. 

“[Josh] Risdon and Connor Pain will be back in. Diamanti is still not ready,” Aloisi said.

“It’s great to have Pain and Risdon back because they’re important players for us. They’ve had good seasons and we know we need to be at full strength come the run home of the season.

“When you get your players back involved it creates competition, so it’s good news for us. 

“Risdon will definitely be fit enough to start. 

“Connor Pain, we’ll make a decision today. We’ve got another training session but whether he starts or comes off the bench he’ll definitely be involved.”

Both sides will enter Saturday evening with 32 points to their name thus far this ALM season; a tally that sees them sit first and second on the table and eight points clear of next best Adelaide United. 

Their success built off the back of the league’s best defence, Western has proven notably resilient against what is easily the league’s best attack this far this season: downing them 1-0 in both their previous encounters. 

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“If you’re not concentrating for 90 minutes they can hurt you,” Kisnorbo said. 

“We understand that. But it’s more about what we want to do and how we go about it against them tomorrow. 

“I don’t like to comment on other teams. They’re doing what they’re doing and that’s the way it is. Their coach is the one that can speak about them.

“I’d rather concentrate on our team and what we do.”

While it is the defending champions that occupy the top spot on the ALM table by virtue of their superior goal difference, United retains two games in hand over City: meaning that a win on Saturday, combined with wins in their two outstanding fixtures, could send them a minimum of nine points clear of their local rivals. 

“We have to be at our best. They’re a tough team,” Aloisi said. “They move the ball really well. They can open teams up when you’re not organised and not prepared. 

Western United hold two games in hand over their local rivals
Image Credit: Western United

“Without the ball, they press you well, they press you with intent so you haven’t got a lot of time, especially in the midfield, because they’ve got mobile players that can put pressure on you. 

“City are one of the best sides in the competition. We see how many goals they score, so we have to be at our best with the ball and without the ball. 

“I’d be lying if I said that a derby game isn’t important. Because it is. When people say it’s just another game, it’s not – it’s a derby. I played in plenty and coached in plenty and there’s always that bit of extra intensity in the game. 

“The players and supporters get that bit more excited. It’s about then making sure the players don’t get too excited and that they’re still in control of their emotions and play to our structures. 

“I don’t need to motivate them too much for this game. They know it’s against Melbourne City and they’re on the same points as us. 

“We know it won’t define our season or our club with one game but it’s a game that if you don’t enjoy playing or being involved in these games then you shouldn’t be involved in football. We’re all looking forward to it. I can’t wait.”

Enjoying Joey’s coverage of Australian sport? Your support helps keep it possible.
You’re seeing this advert because this is an unpaid, self-published piece.

You can support his ongoing work by buying him a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/joeylynchy 

Header Image Credit: Western United/Melbourne City

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