A-League: Sydney FC to host Western Sydney Wanderers

A Sky Blues win in arguably the most anticipated Sydney derby in A-League history will go some way towards easing the World Cup disappointment of forgotten Socceroo Rhyan Grant.

More than 30,000 fans are expected at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night when Sydney FC hosts the Western Sydney Wanderers.

It’s a derby which is always spicy, but the off-season defection of A-League legend Milos Ninkovic from Sydney to the Wanderers will have temperatures boiling in the rivalry’s latest instalment.

Grant, a Sky Blues player since 2008, said there had rarely been such an intense lead-in to Sydney derby since its inception 10 years ago when the Wanderers joined the competition.

“Over the last few years, we haven’t really had what we’ve had this season, with all the drama around ‘Ninko’ swapping sides,” the 31-year-old right-back said.

“They’re doing quite well this season as well, which is good for the league, so there’s been a little bit more in the build-up compared to recent years, which makes it all the more exciting.

“The crowd looks like it’s going to pack in, too, so it’s shaping up to be an absolute stormer.”

Grant said it was “disappointing” that two-time Johnny Warren medallist Ninkovic had defected to the Wanderers.

“‘Ninko’ was a legend at our club and achieved so much for us,” he said.

“It wasn’t a great way for him to leave. There were obviously a few issues between him and the club, but … he’s on the other team now and we definitely don’t like Western Sydney and he’s part of them now.

“He’s an opponent now, so he’s fair game. You want to get stuck in and make yourself known quite early, so whether it’s him or someone else, that’s the way the game goes.”

Grant’s also keen to get “stuck in” to ease the pain of being frozen out the Socceroos’ World Cup plans after being involved for a large chunk of Australia’s qualifying campaign.

Seemingly among the scapegoats following the Socceroos’ 2-0 loss to Japan in March, Grant hasn’t played for the national team since and wasn’t part of Australia’s successful World Cup playoffs squad in June or the squad for the September series against New Zealand

His non-selection in the World Cup squad named this week therefore didn’t come as a huge surprise to Grant, but it was still not easy to take.

“You got through a lot and I was there for almost the whole process, so to miss out on the ‘big dance’ is pretty disappointing, but the boys are doing quite well and I probably didn’t have my best season last season,” Grant said.

“But I thought I started this season quite well and thought I could have a tiny sniff (of World Cup selection), especially with a few players injured, but it wasn’t to be.

“Of course, I still support the boys and can’t wait to see them play in Qatar … but it does suck to miss out, but there’s not much I can do about it now.”

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