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Mar 19, 2013

Wanderers won't fold under pressure: coach

Saturday night's A-League derby is the closest Western Sydney will come to a finals dress rehearsal, and coach Tony Popovic has full faith his undermanned side will handle the pressure.

Saturday's clash between the Wanderers and Sydney FC is one of the most hyped and anticipated games in the competition's eight-year history.

On top of the enormity of the A-League's third Sydney derby, Western Sydney have the chance to deliver the premiers' plate to their Parramatta Stadium faithful with victory.

It would be the most storied chapter in a fairytale that stretches back to last May, when the expansion franchise had no logo, no colours, no stadium and no players.

To post an 11th win on the trot, the Wanderers must overcome the enforced omissions of German fullback Jerome Polenz (quad), winger Youssouf Hersi (suspension) and midfielder Aaron Mooy (knee).

And of course a Sydney FC side, boosted by the return of Socceroos captain Lucas Neill, that is hell bent on keeping their place in the top six.

"Expectations from outside has never been a problem for us," Popovich said on Tuesday.

"It's not just 10 in a row, it's been an amazing run. The last 15 games the players have won 13 and 1 draw.

"So they know how to handle pressure.

"They know how to handle backing up, week in, week out."

Japanese star Shinji Ono is slated to return after missing the side's last-start 3-1 win over Melbourne Heart with hamstring tightness.

Popovic is yet to settle on the three changes to the starting XI that downed Heart last Saturday, but is confident the inclusions will handle the pressure.

"I think everyone's played a part already (in the 2012/13 campaign) and whoever comes in, it won't be a first for them," Popovic said.

"They'll come in, they know how we want to play. They've tasted it. We've put trust in them throughout the year and we won't hesitate to do that again."

Having dealt with a myriad of personnel issues this season, Sydney FC coach Frank Farina was upbeat his sputtering side could capitalise on the wounded Wanderers.

"I hope so. That's a headache that they haven't really had to deal with a lot this year," Farina said.

"Whereas we have because I think we've had a lot of issues with injuries and suspensions. This week they're missing three - but I'm sure they'll deal with it."

Farina termed it an "exciting" game.

Even steadfastly straight-bat Popovich was forced to ponder the prospect of the Premiers' Plate.

"It's possible isn't it? It is possible, we can't deny that," Popovich said.

"It could be a special night, but I think regardless it will be a special night."

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