Perth’s Tony Popovic will coach against the Western Sydney Wanderers in the A-League on Sunday.Former coach Tony Popovic will be far from the only familiar face in the opposing camp when Western Sydney Wanderers start their new A-League campaign on Sunday with a testing trip to Perth Glory.
Among the many Glory recruits are three ex-Wanderers – all-time leading scorer Brendon Santalab, former Socceroos centre back Matthew Spiranovic and another n representative in classy attacker Chris Ikonomidis.
Former Wanderers goalkeeper Liam Reddy was already at Perth when Popovic signed.
The visitors have avoided the turbulent lead-up to last season’s opening round, when Popovic walked out on the club to join Turkish side Karabukspor.
It was a short and ill-fated union with Popovic sacked little more than two months into his tenure.
Popovic landed back in the A-League with Perth in May and has assembled a squad which FFA boss David Gallop believes will be one of the big improvers after missing the finals last season.
Wanderers’ leading 2017-18 scorer Oriel Riera spent three months of the 2017-18 pre-season working under Popovic, but Sunday’s game will be the first A-League match both will be engaged in, albeit on opposite sides.
Perth have signed very good players, they have a great squad. A great, great staff also,'”Riera told AAP.
‘”We know Popovic, the way he works the way that his team wants to play and it will be very tough.
Riera, who scored 15 goals in the A-League and four in the FFA Cup last season and has opted to stay with Wanderers despite an offer to return home, is impressed with the club’s new German imports.
Playmaker Alex Baumjohann has displayed good creativity and setpiece delivery, though compatriot and defender Patrick Ziegler will miss the start of the season after undergoing knee surgery.
Wanderers have spent the off-season adjusting to the style of German Markus Babbel, who replaced the sacked Josep Gombau after the club failed to make the finals.
“Last season not being in the finals was a tough moment for us,” Riera said.
“I’m here to win something and the way to win is be in the finals.
‘This season I think we’re ready with the squad we have.”
Wanderers advanced to the FFA Cup semi-finals where they lost 3-0 to local rivals Sydney FC, but suffered a couple of big friendly losses to other A-League clubs.
“I don’t think we were up and down,” Riera insisted.
‘We started with building a team, we’ve improved a lot.”