Preview: Sydney FC v Wellington Phoenix – Round 8 2015/16

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Written by Michael Safro (@safrossydney)

A Canadian university student group banned a long-running yoga class the other day, accusing it of something called “cultural genocide”.

I was convinced this would be the most absurd thing to grace the media pages this week until THAT exchange between Alan Jones and Rebecca Wilson. Scraping metres below the bottom of the barrel, they discovered a universe in which parallels could be drawn between the banning of unruly Australian football supporters and last week’s Paris terror attacks.

In response, FFA must “grow a pair” and take up the fight on behalf of us football fans. We, the football public, must not be bullied and maligned in this way, though it appears that the sport’s governing body has misread the fans’ mood on this occasion.

Damien De Bohun’s mealy-mouthed declaration that the governing body reserves the right to ban violent A-League fans misses the point. Yes they must, though banned supporters need to have an avenue of appeal, a right currently denied them by the governing body. But the FFA has to stand up for its fans – a vital stakeholder – making it clear to those who fear and envy the game’s recent growth that long gone are the days of the mainstream media treating football and its supporters with disrespect.

And so Sydney FC fans, now outed by Jones and Wilson, will leave their baseball bats and knuckle dusters at home before making treks to Allianz Stadium on Thursday night, hoping to see the Sky Blues pick up their first win in over three weeks. Two uninspiring 0-0 draws (one, admittedly, in 35 degree, energy-sapping heat) either side of a 2-4 loss to Melbourne Victory have raised questions about Sydney’s ability to create and finish chances.

Opponents Wellington Phoenix are coming off a late 2-1 loss to the Western Sydney Wanderers last Saturday and have been in camp at Coogee since Saturday. The Kiwis will thus be fresh and rested come Thursday night and in some way, feel more at home than the exhausted Sky Blues.

The visitors will miss the experience of Ben Sigmund, the former All Whites centreback on the end of an alleged Federico Piovaccari elbow at Pirtek last weekend. More is to come from that story but Manny Muscat is likely to partner Andrew Durante in the absence of the concussed Sigmund while Roly Bonevacia and Michael McGlinchey loom as the Phoenix danger men.

Meanwhile, it’s all about recovery at camp Sky Blue. A few of the older heads may struggle to back up given the short turnaround and Andrew Hoole, Brandon O’Neill, Chris Naumoff and George Blackwood could be in line to replace them. Meanwhile, Jacques Faty has returned to training and Arnie will assess him in coming days.

Phoenix will press high to disrupt the home’s side’s passing game, but will also aim to keep possession in the hope of exploiting any latent fatigue in the Sydney squad. Both sets of fullbacks love to push on, leaving space in behind that could be exploited by pacy attackers.

The game will be a tough one and neither side stands out as the clear favourite. Nonetheless, the match is certainly winnable for the home side and one hopes that the Sydney crowd, never overly keen on attending weeknight matches, gets out to Allianz Stadium on Thursday night to help the Sky Blues take all three points and, if only briefly, return to the top of the table.