GOOD TIMES: Wanderers’ Andreu, Jacob Pepper and Romeo Castelen celebrate a goal against Melbourne City at AAMI Park last week.
GOOD TIMES: Wanderers’ Andreu, Jacob Pepper and Romeo Castelen celebrate a goal against Melbourne City at AAMI Park last week. Scott Barbourgetty IMAGES

Pepper expects another extra spicy Sydney derby

WANDERERS midfielder Jacob Pepper has only played in one Sydney derby earlier this season, but it left a lasting memory.

Even though his side lost 1-0 that night back on October 24, thanks to a sublime finish from Milos Ninkovic, a crowd of 40,539 crammed into Allianz Stadium.

That was the second-biggest Sydney derby attendance, creating an electric atmosphere.

There won't be as many at the smaller Pirtek Stadium for the second instalment of the derby tonight, but another amazing atmosphere is expected.

"It's very hard to explain what a Sydney derby is like - you have to see it for yourself," Pepper told APN.

"The build-up to the game is one of the more intense ones I've seen in Australia.

"All around Parramatta, the only thing people want to talk about is the derby - it's the only game the fans desperately want to win."

The first derby was a pulsating clash, Ninkovic scoring his winner in the 88th minute.

Another thriller is expected tonight, with the Wanderers in second place and the Sky Blues fourth.

The Wanderers lost 3-2 to Melbourne City last Saturday night, but it was the team's first defeat in 10 weeks, since falling short to the Sky Blues back in October.

Sydney has not lost in its past four matches.

"They're a compact side and are well structured, and it's a credit to Graham Arnold and the way he has been coaching that team," Pepper said.

The Wanderers also have a well-respected coach in Tony Popovic, who has had a profound effect on Pepper, after he arrived at the club from the Newcastle Jets this season.

"Career-wise, I'll never look back after making the move here," he said.

"Poppa is very thorough, and he's big on doing all the little things right.

"The senior players have been great to me, and we all knew we'd find our spark this season - we want to continue firing at the back end of the season, too."

Sydney FC is undefeated in its past five Sydney derbies, winning four and drawing once despite conceding seven goals in the process.

But Western Sydney is undefeated in its past six home A-League fixtures, in what has been an outstanding season to date.

"The boys have been in good spirits this week - there's been a bit of mucking around at training and we're having fun," Pepper said.

"We're ready to put on a good show."

Alex Gersbach, Andrew Hoole, Brandon O'Neill (all Olyroos duty), and Alex Brosque (hamstring) are unavailable for the Sky Blues.

Aaron Calver and Alex Mullen have been promoted.

For the Wanderers, Brendon Santalab (promoted) and Scott Neville (back from suspension) are back in the match day squad. Jaushua Sotirio is on Olyroos duty.

GAME DAY

WANDERERS v SKY BLUES

Pirtek Stadium, 6.30pm

Also: Reds v Mariners 4.15pm; Glory v City 8.40pm

(All times AEST)



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