United embrace underdog tag against Sydney

Anna Harrington
Alessandro Diamanti will be a key for Western United in their A-League clash against Sydney FC

Out to arrest a two-game losing streak, A-League newcomers Western United will face one of their toughest challenges yet when they host Sydney FC at GMHBA Stadium on Sunday.

United have suffered back-to-back losses to Newcastle Jets and Central Coast Mariners, while reigning champions Sydney are in ominous form and enter the game as favourites.

"They're a good side, we respect them but unlike the last two weeks where we've been expected to beat the opposition, it's completely turned now and for a reason things have changed quickly in seven days and so the expectation isn't on us anymore to win - it's on the opposition," United coach Mark Rudan said on Friday.

"Good or bad - I'm not too sure. Let's see what our mindset is and how we approach this game but certainly one's no more important than the other."

If the A-League newcomers are to return to winning ways, they need to recapture their early-season goalscoring ease.

United have plenty of creative weapons - with Alessandro Diamanti at the heart of their play - but have been unable to turn chances into goals for two consecutive weeks.

"We've actually had our analyst look through those numbers and no other team have lost two games on the trot and created as many chances as we have the last two games - over 90 penalty entries into the opposition box," Rudan said

"So it's not because we're not playing well, not keeping the ball or not creating chances, it's that last little bit where we need to improve."

Sydney will face United for the first time in an official game but won a pre-season clash 2-1 in Ballarat, with Milos Ninkovic scoring both goals.

Meanwhile the Sky Blues are eyeing the top of the table - as three points would see them overtake Melbourne City.

"We have the extra carrot of if we do win, with Melbourne City having the bye, that we can go top of the league and that's exactly where we want to be," defender Ryan McGowan said.

STATS THAT MATTER

* Sydney FC have won seven of their past eight A-League matches in Victoria (L1), the Sky Blues haven't lost back-to-back matches there since January-February 2013.

* Western United have lost their past two A-League matches, after dropping only one of their first five matches in the competition prior (W3, D1).

* Sydney FC have won seven of their last eight A-League matches (L1), including their last three in succession where they've averaged three goals scored per game.

Stats provided by Opta