Western Sydney Wanderers season preview: Santalab predicts top-four finish

Brendon Santalab knows what it takes to achieve greatness at Western Sydney Wanderers.

The Wanderers' all-time leading goalscorer and Asian Champions League winner was part of the club's dramatic rise to become an international force, however he's had to watch on in recent years as they've struggled for consistency.

But now the Wanderers have returned home and Santalab says the move will result in his former side returning to the peak of their powers in the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 Season.

Last season: 8th
Santalab's predicted position: Top four

A-League.com.au's three things to watch

1. Return to Wanderland

The Wanderers have found a home at Bankwest Stadium after three seasons spent in no-man's land.

Returning to Parramatta to their brand new, state-of-the-art training base and stadium, the Wanderers will hope their identity and winning culture developed over the early years will return in spades for the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 campaign.

2. Crunch time for Markus Babbel

The Hyundai A-League 2018/20 Season was a trying one for Babbel who spent his first year in the country at a club transitioning into a new era.

But after overseeing an off-season filled with key departures and arrivals Babbel should now have all the tools at his disposal to fully express his managerial style and prowess.

3. The Jurman and McGowan effect

Defensive frailty has plagued Western Sydney over the past two seasons, and Babbel has made considerable efforts to amend the issue in the off-season.

The arrivals of Matt Jurman and Dylan McGowan - who have both experienced time with the Caltex Socceroos - could turn one of league's leakiest defences into a tight-knit, resolute unit. 

STORYLINES: Everything you need to know before 2019/20 Season kick off

The first five fixtures

Central Coast Mariners (H)
Melbourne Victory (a)
Sydney FC (H)
Brisbane Roar (H)
Western United (a)

Click here to see the full 2019/20 fixture list

Alexander Baumjohann
Alex Baumjohann scored for Wanderers in the last Sydney Derby but has since switched jerseys from Red and Black to Sky Blue.

Santalab's key match-ups: Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory

"The Sydney Derby has created so much hype over the years.

"It's one of the best games on the A-League calendar, when everyone first looks at the draw they say 'when's the Sydney Derby on?' 

"The transfer of Alex Baumjohann over to Sydney FC is going to spice up the Derby once again.

"It's a big game for Australian football and one that will continue to grow, especially when it's hosted at Bankwest Stadium, that atmosphere is going to be electric.

"Melbourne Victory... there was always a lot of fire in the games we played against them.

"It's a really attractive match-up for the fans to watch."

Santalab's players to watch

1. Matt Jurman

"It's massive to get Matty (Jurman) back to the A-League.

"I think it just shows how good the reputation of the A-League is to be able to recruit players like Jurman.

"He's a born leader and fantastic player, I've played against him a number of times and he's very physical, he's verbal on the pitch so with that you have a true leader."

2. Alexander Meier 

"The striker Alexander Meier will be a real presence up front.

"It's been an issue over the last couple of years having a proven goalscorer, and should he fire the Wanderers can be a real force this year."

Alexander Meier signed for the Wanderers on a one-year deal
New signing Alexander Meier was a prolific goalscorer in the German Bundesliga for Eintracht Frankfurt.

The squad

In

Daniel Georgievski (Newcastle Jets) Story
Pirmin Schwegler (Hannover 96, Germany) Story
Daniel Lopar (St. Gallen, Switzerland) Story
Radoslaw Majewski (Pogon Szczecin) Story
Dylan McGowan (Vendsyssel) Story
Nick Sullivan Story
Mohamed Adam (promoted) Story
Matthew Jurman Story
Alexander Meier Story

Out

Brendan Hamill (Western United) Story
Giancarlo Gallifuoco (Central Coast Mariners) Story
Josh Risdon (Western United) Story
Oriol Riera, Roly Bonevacia, Raul Llorente, Alexander Baumjohann, Jaushua Sotirio, Abraham Majok, Marc Tokich, Rashid Mahazi, John Roberts (all released) Story
Nick Fitzgerald (released) Story

Santalab's squad verdict

"The club has really looked to freshen up the squad.

"The players that moved on did an outstanding job for the club but unfortunately football players come and go.

"There's big shoes to fill for the players that have come in, but Markus Babbel has brought in the players he wants, whereas when he took over the club there were still players there from the existing coach.

"There's a pressure surrounding the Wanderers squad this season that I feel they can handle... it's a huge challenge for the whole club to step up this season and be the force they once were."

Western Sydney Wanderers' 2019/20 Squad

Daniel Lopar, Vedran Janjetovic, Jack Greenwood, Danijel Nizic, Nick Suman, Mathieu Cordier, Tarek Elrich, Daniel Georgievski, Matthew Jurman, Dylan McGowan, Tass Mourdoukoutas, Tate Russell, Patrick Ziegler, Keanu Baccus, Kostandinos Grozos, Radoslaw Majewski, Fabian Monge, Jordan O’Doherty, Pirmin Schwegler, Nicholas Sullivan, Mohamed Adam, Mitchell Duke, Bruce Kamau, Alexander Meier, Jake Trew, Kwame Yeboah.

Duke
Mitchell Duke has been named Western Sydney Wanderers captain for the 2019/20 season.

The boss: Markus Babbel

"This is the year that's going to tell whether Markus Babbel is taking the club in the right direction.

"It's been difficult to see his true strengths over the last 12 months because of all the instability at the club.

"We all admire Babbel for what he achieved as a player, and this season is a fantastic opportunity to show all the quality he had on the pitch in his coaching career."

RIVALRIES: Every key derby date for Hyundai A-League 2019/20 Season

Babbel
Markus Babbel is heading into year two at Western Sydney Wanderers following an eighth place finish in his debut campaign.

Santalab's prediction

"I'm expecting nothing less than top four.

"I think with all the energy around the club with the new facilities and stadium there'll be a natural lift at the Wanderers.

"I'm sure that will be their push, and I think this is the season for the club to bounce back."

The kits

The Wanderers iconic red and black hoops make a return with a twist for the 2019/20 Hyundai A-League season.

One large horizontal red stripe occupies the chest of the kit, with thinner red and black horizontal stripes running down the kit from below the main sponsor. 

The Wanderers' will play their away games in a bold new look this season, in a predominately gold kit with black trim and detailing. 

NEW STRIPS: Every club's kit for the new season

Duke


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