Derby could fuel round-one win: Popa
Photo Source: AAP
Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic hopes the spectacle of Saturday's potentially record-breaking A-League derby will drive the Wanderers to a first-ever round-one win.
In four seasons since their inception, the league's youngest club have never finished their opening fixture as victors.
In fact, they've never won in the second round either, and only once triumphed in the third.
Slow starts are not historically an issue for the Wanderers - they have contested every grand final apart from the ill-fated campaign of 2014/15.
But pride is also on the line against a potent-looking Sydney FC who, despite their anaemic results last season, have not been defeated by their bitter cross-town rivals in more than two and a half years.
At least 60,000 spectators are expected at ANZ Stadium, which would smash the A-League attendance record of 55,436 set in the 2006/07 grand final between Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United.
Popovic was optimistic that factor might fuel a result that breaks more than one drought.
"It would be very nice to win a Sydney derby," he told AAP.
"It would also be nice to win a round-one game - we've never done that before.
"It will be different and exciting at Homebush with an amazing crowd.
"I think we'll still be slow starters in terms of performance, but we'd like to get some more results early on as we're evolving and getting better.
"Maybe the derby is the trigger we need to win a round-one game."
Popovic expected his new-look squad would again ease into the season, with the long-term aim of challenging for an elusive championship most recently denied by the Reds.
He insisted May's grand-final defeat had left no psychological hangover, perceiving it as a positive, just another of many motivators for a side having undergone yet another off-season overhaul.
But the latest batch of signings, including returned striker Kerem Bulut, Argentine playmaker Nicolas Martinez and Japanese forward Jumpei Kusukami, will meet the Sky Blues without their captain.
Nikolai Topor-Stanley will serve a suspension copped in last month's 4-1 FFA Cup quarter-final shellacking by Melbourne City.
Popovic, who has a stack of central defensive options ready to stand in, said his new faces would be better prepared after the disconcerting loss.
"That was a very good chance for us to give some of the new players an idea of what the A-League is, against a good opponent at a nice stadium," he said.
"It was a good measuring stick for those players to release where it's at."