Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold has declared Saturday night’s Sydney Derby at ANZ Stadium will have a better atmosphere than anything rival codes can offer.
In a sensational start to Season 2016/17, the Sky Blues head to ANZ Stadium to take on Western Sydney Wanderers for what should be an electrifying Harbour City match up.
The clash between the two bitter rivals is set to break a Hyundai A-League attendance record, with 60,000 plus expected for the clash.
“The Sydney Swans played GWS Giants in a semi-final recently in the AFL and got 62,000. If we can beat that for Round 1 of the competition it should show the AFL we’re coming to get them,” Arnold told www.a-league.com.au.
“And I’ve been to a rugby league grand final before and I’ve obviously been to derbies before and the atmosphere of the derby certainly outdoes the grand final. I’m sure round one at ANZ Stadium will be the same.”
If recent history is anything to go by then the Sky Blues will spoil the Wanderers’ party at their first game at the club’s temporary new home base at Homebush.
Sydney FC is unbeaten in the last seven clashes between the two clubs, while the Wanderers have never won in the opening round of a Hyundai A-League season.
And Arnold has raised questions over whether Tony Popovic’s side will be at full-throttle for the season-opener, after another off-season of personnel changes.
“Obviously we had a bad year last year but we didn’t lose to the Wanderers…in my view it’s not too bad a year,” Arnold said.
“The Wanderers are very good side and Tony Popovic does a great job.
“But the question will be if they start really well? They have 17 new players again, it takes time to gel players into a system and into the way you want to play.
“No doubt Tony’s been working hard on that but it’s not easy to gel all those players in at once.”
Sydney has recruited strongly for the new season, adding plenty of experience and quality in the likes of Alex Wilkinson, Bobo, Bernie Ibini, Michael Zullo and Josh Brillante.
And with the exception of Ibini – who is not quite at full fitness after more than a year out with a leg injury – they will be at full strength for the season opener.
One of the club’s youngsters hoping to make the squad for the derby is defender 20-year-old Aaron Calver.
“We don’t want to lose to them, we want the bragging rights. We always seem to get up for the occasion and this will be no different,” Calver said.