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Wanderers expect to win derby: Popovic

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Tony Popovic has a pre-Sydney derby message for Graham Arnold: you don't know what this Western Sydney squad can do, but you will after Saturday night.

Sledges have been slung and flames fanned between the Wanderers and Sydney FC camps in the lead-up to one of the biggest clashes in A-League history - in front of an anticipated crowd of at least 60,000 at ANZ Stadium.

Sky Blues captain Alex Brosque kicked off the war of words with his "we hate every single one of them" comment.

Fiery Wanderers stalwart Brendon Santalab then had a dig, suggesting Brosque's "disappointing" comments were made because some of his family members support the Wanderers.

But the barbs weren't restricted to the players.

Coach Arnold was typically irreverent, declaring that the match venue of ANZ Stadium, one of the Wanderers' new temporary home grounds, in fact belonged to Sydney on the basis they'd played more games there in the past.

But it was Arnold's suggestion that his harbour-side glamour team have the edge over a less-experienced Western Sydney line-up that enticed the usually composed Popovic to take the bait.

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

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

"We're confident, we're optimistic.

"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.

"We haven't ever done that in round one, we haven't done that against Sydney FC in a while."

To be exact, 1001 days by the time the ball is in play.

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

It is fact that Popovic's new-look squad boasts less players with first-hand derby experience, taking into consideration his annual batch of new recruits and the suspension of skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley.

But fans are excited to see what Argentine marquee playmaker Nicolas Martinez can offer in combination with returned striker Kerem Bulut.

The controversial Bulut became an instant fan favourite in February 2015 when, on A-League debut, he scored a brace in a 4-3 Sydney derby loss at Pirtek Stadium.

Popovic would not confirm his squad but Robert Cornthwaite appears the obvious choice to replace Topor-Stanley in central defence.

They'll have their hands full with Sydney's new Brazilian marquee striker Bobo, who's already proven dangerous in a strengthened final third also featuring his former Besiktas teammate Filip Holosko, David Carney, Serbian playmaker Milos Ninkovic and fit-again captain Alex Brosque.

Winger Bernie Ibini is an outside chance of being named on the bench despite having played no minutes since overcoming a bad leg break suffered at the start of last season.


* Sydney FC are undefeated against Western Sydney in the last two seasons, having won five of their last seven games

* Sydney haven't lost an opening-round game since 2012-13; the Wanderers have never won an opening match

* Brendon Santalab has scored five goals in his last four appearances

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