In the afterglow of the Westfield W-League 2020/21 fixture release, several clashes are emerging as particularly compelling, not just in the context of the league this season but also the Australian women's game more widely.
Take at look at two of the Sky Blues' headline clashes coming your way this season.
1. Sydney FC v Melbourne City
Round 1, Wednesday 30 December, 4:30pm
Two massive games have been selected to kick off the Westfield W-League’s new independent era, but the one that’s shaping up as the most enthralling is last year’s Grand Final replay between Sydney FC and Melbourne City.
Since City’s introduction to the league in 2015, the two Sky Blue sides have developed their own cream-of-the-crop rivalry. Sydney FC (the only club to finish in the top four every season since the league began in 2008) will host City (the only club to win the Premiership-Championship trophy double twice) at ANZ Stadium on the penultimate day of 2020 as the first part of a 2019/20 Grand Final double-header with the A-League.
City come into this game with a massive historical edge, having defeated Sydney in eight of their ten all-time meetings. Sydney’s single win over the Melbourne heavyweights came in the 2017/18 regular season (a 3-2 win in round 4), only for City to exact revenge later that year by defeating Sydney 2-0 in the Grand Final.
But this season, and this game, could be different. City has been gutted in the off-season, losing most of last year’s regular starting XI – including their highest goal-scorers and chance-creators – and bringing in a number of fresh faces to fill the void.
Sydney’s squad, meanwhile, has remained largely the same. Despite losing some key internationals, their core group (complemented by a handful of talented youngsters poached from elsewhere) has carried over into this season. This consistency could see the Sky Blues kick off their 2020/21 campaign with a win over the club that’s been their elusive ‘white whale’ for the past five years.
2. Sydney FC v Western Sydney Wanderers
Round 4, Saturday 16 January, 4:30pm
Round 10, Sunday 28 February, 6:00pm
While Melbourne City were the initial tide that lifted all Westfield W-League boats, Western Sydney Wanderers are emerging as the second wave. Their impressive off-field moves in recent years, such as the completion of their Blacktown training base – to which all women players have equal access – and further investment in their women’s team resulted in the Wanderers’ best-ever season in 2019/20.
Epitomising this renewed focus was their 5-0 demolishing of Sydney FC at their first Sydney Derby held at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta. The Wanderers posted their biggest-ever win over the Sky Blues that day, the result of both the quality of their international imports in Americans Lynn Williams and Kristen Hamilton, as well as highly-rated future Westfield Matildas star, Kyra Cooney-Cross.
While Sydney responded to that big-ticket loss with a 3-0 victory in the return fixture in Round 12, there was a feeling of a gauntlet being thrown down on that Bankwest pitch: the start of a rivalry that has given the A-League some of its most intense, memorable moments.
Sydney will host the Wanderers at ANZ Stadium as part of a blockbuster Sydney Derby Double Header with the A-League. However, both teams will return to this fixture without the international players who twisted the knife last season. The result, though, could be an even tighter, more exciting Sydney Derby instead of another lop-sided blow-out, with younger local players carrying the torch.