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Mar 21, 2013

Coach wants Wanderers to win in style

As his ground-breaking side bids to seal its status as the leading A-League club on Saturday night, Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic wants to mark a special occasion with a fitting performance.

A victory over crosstown rival Sydney FC at a sold-out Parramatta Stadium on Saturday would clinch the minor premiership in the club's first season.

It would also add another chapter to the burgeoning rivalry between the Wanderers and Sydney, who need a win to shore up their chances of a top six spot and resultant playoff place.

"It is building and you can sense that. I'm sure in time it will be the biggest rivalry in our game," Popovic said.

"With the stadium being sold out so quickly after tickets went on sale, it shows you the interest of this game. Everyone's looking forward to it.

"It will be a special occasion. We just want to play our part with a good performance."

Always the pragmatist, Popovic refused to get swept away by pressure of impending history.

His club are riding a 10-match winning streak and lead second-placed Central Coast by five points with two rounds remaining.

"It's still just three points on the line. We're just focused on this match and we'll do everything we can to maintain this winning streak," Popovic said.

Adding to the feelgood factor surrounding the Wanderers was confirmation on Friday that popular Japanese marquee star Shinji Ono had re-signed for another season.

There was good news for Sydney too with coach Frank Farina declaring Socceroos captain Lucas Neill would start on Saturday after missing two matches with a calf injury.

A loss to their local rivals would seriously jeopardise Sydney's playoff prospects and veteran midfielder Brett Emerton foreshadowed a feisty low-scoring encounter.

"Both teams have got a lot riding on the game and it's going to be a fiery one and one which I'm really looking forward to," Emerton told AAP.

"As a player, this is what you play football (for).

"We want to secure a top six spot and they want to secure the premiers' plate, so a massive game, a great rivalry.

"It's going to be a packed stadium so what more can you ask for really?"

Sydney and the Wanderers have split the honours in their two encounters, but Popovic rated the Sky Blues an improved outfit since Farina's mid-season appointment.

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