Western Sydney Wanderers will be looking to carry their FFA Cup momentum into the first round of the A-League. A busy offseason and a promising string of new signings for the red and black may just iron out the inconsistencies of the 2016/17 season.

Last Season
Position: 6th
Finals: Elimination final
FFA Cup: Round of 16

They’ll win the league because…
The Wanderers will hit the ground running coming into the new season. The squad will be looking to go all the way in the FFA Cup, having bested the Wellington Phoenix, Bentleigh Greens and most recently Blacktown City, earning a place in the semi-finals. This translates well into the upcoming season.

Up front Brendon Santalab remains one of the league’s most formidable strikers. Capping of the 16/17 season with 14 goals and his second consecutive golden boot, the Player of the Year recipient became the Wanderers’ all time leading goal scorer. With Kusukami Jumpei, Jaushua Sotirio and handful of new striking talent joining him up front, the Western Sydney faithful will be expecting some big score lines.

Consecutive home games against Perth Glory and Central Coast Mariners will get the ball rolling before the Sydney derby in Round 3. If the Wanderers can secure these three wins and establish a solid starting 11 then there is no reason they can’t bring home the title.

They’ll be cellar dwellers because…
The gruelling Asian Champions League campaign saw the side suffer some big defeats, with the Urawa Red Diamonds managing to slot 11 goals in two games against the side. Losses to both FC Seoul and Shanghai SIPG meant the Wanderers finished at the bottom of the group.

The biggest worry for the side will be the absence of Nicolas Martinez and Terry Antonis. Antonis returns to Greek side PAOK for the duration of the season and Argentine marquee Martinez will return to Olympiacos until 2019. Both on-loan stars were central to the Wanderers’ late season success and Popovic will need on-par replacements to ensure a solid midfield.

Inconsistency was a real issue last year with the Wanderers winning just eight of their 28 games. The 12 season draws also indicated that the team was lacking striking prowess. Last year it took the side until Round 22 to find form; if they can’t start the season with a bang it could mean trouble.

The offseason brought…
Tony Popovic wiped the slate clean with 14 players shown the door to make way for some well grounded local talent, familiar faces and a handful of exciting foreign signings.

Marquee signing Oriol Riera is the most promising name in the line-up. The Spaniard is a product of the FC Barcelona La Masia Academy and has since added an impressive list of clubs to his resume. With appearances for La Liga teams CA Osasuna and Deportivo de La Coruna as well as Wigan Athletic, Riera will be one of the most prominent strikers in the league. Alvaro Cejudo will link up on the right wing having come from La Liga last season.

Mark Bridge returns to the side on a two year contract adding to an impressive attacking side. Talented midfielder Roly Bonevacia joins the team from Wellington, along with promising youth prospect Mark Tokich. Chris Herd joins the midfield from League 1 side Gillingham bringing some Premier League and Championship experience to the side.

At the back, former Socceroo Michael Thwaite returns to the A-League after a season in the Chinese Super League. He joins Perth veteran Josh Risdon and Raul Llorente for what looks to be a promising rearguard.

Former Adelaide shot stopper John Hall has signed on as an injury replacement for Jerrad Tyson, and Scholarship Player Nicholas Suman ensures quality backup glovemen.

Talk around the water cooler… Look smart in front of your colleagues with this valuable piece of information.
Fans can thank Andreu and Alberto for putting in a good word and helping persuade Riera to join the red and black. It was a big decision for Riera to pack up and move to Australia with his wife and two daughters – Western Sydney is about as far from Spain as you can get. He met with Popovic at the beginning of the year and was keen on the idea of joining the young team. As luck would have it two former Western Sydney players had played alongside Riera back in Spain and were quick to praise their experience with the Wanderers.

Andreu Guerao played for Western Sydney back in 2016, both he and Riera were brought up in Barcelona’s La Masia youth academy, and Alberto Leiva was his teammate while playing at Cordoba. Both Spaniards spoke very positively about Australian football, making his decision easier. So to them we say, Gracias!

Key player…
Roly Bonevacia – For the Wanderers attacking dreams to come to fruition, they’ll need a player who can consistently provide an attacking outlet and can finish chances. Bonevacia may just be the man to do it. An exciting play maker, he’ll fit nicely in a forward role as a option in the final third.

One to watch…
Young gun Marc Tokich is already making waves on the Australian football scene. The 18-year-old landed a two year contract with the red and black after he was named Foxtel National Youth Player of the Year.

The Canberra prodigy made his debut against Premier League giants Arsenal back in July and was selected as an Australian U17’s representative. He’ll play an attacking midfield role and has already shown class and poise on the ball far beyond his age. He’s got pace, flashy dribbling and good vision. Wanderers’ faithful can’t wait to see just how good he can be this season.

Full squad list…
1. Jerrad TYSON, 3. Jack CLISBY, 5. Brendan HAMILL, 7. Steven LUSTICA, 11. Brendon SANTALAB, 14. Jumpei KUSUKAMI, 15. Kearyn BACCUS, 16. Jaushua SOTIRIO, 18. Robert CORNTHWAITE, 19. Jacob MELLING, 20. Vedran JANJETOVIC, 22. Jonathan ASPROPOTAMITIS, 23. Lachlan SCOTT, Keanu BACCUS, Jackson BANDIERA, Roly BONEVACIA, ARITZ BORDA, Mark BRIDGE, Alvaro CEJUDO, John HALL, Chris HERD, Raul LORRENTE, Oriol RIERA, Josh RISDON, Nicholas SUMAN, Michael THWAITE, Mark TOKICH

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Second year bachelor of Journalism student at the University of Wollongong. Aspiring Journalist, looking forward to the coming season!