The top two sides in the NPL, Heidelberg United and South Melbourne will each be playing for a spot in the FFA Cup quarter finals when they take the field for the FFA Cup Rd of 16 action on Wednesday evening.
South Melbourne will host WA NPL side Sorrento FC in what is a historical occasion for both clubs. It’s the first time both teams have made it into the Rd of 16 with home 1-0 wins in the Rd of 32, and for Sorrento it will be the first WA Member federation club to compete in the round.
Sorrento spearhead, Sean Canham’s header was enough to see off last season’s beaten semi-finalist Canberra Olympic, whilst South spearhead Milos Lujic scored his team’s late winner also from a header to defeat Edgeworth FC.
Coached by former Perth Glory player Jamie Harnwell, Sorrento currently sits in 4th position in the WA NPL with just two rounds remaining.
On the same night that the Lakesiders will be entertaining the Sorrento Gulls, the Bergers will be challenging old adversary Sydney United for a place in the top eight of the FFA Cup.
The old NSL derby takes place at Edensor Park in Sydney and will be the FOX Sports televised feature match of the round.
Sydney United was all abuzz this week with the announcement that former Socceroo Jason Culina will be the coach in 2018. However for Wednesday’s FFA Cup match against the Bergers, caretaker coach Tomi Vidovic will be in charge.
Both United and the Bergers go into the match on the back of impressive Rd 32 wins, although impressive in different ways. Sydney United, despite trailing to an early goal, went on to take FNQ Heat apart 7-2, whilst Heidelberg showed both defensive grit and attacking flair to upset A-League opponent Perth Glory in a deserved 1-0 win thanks to a fine Kenny Athiu finish.
Sydney United is the reigning NPL national champion but could only finish seventh in its domestic league this season. Nevertheless they’ll present a major challenge on the artificial surface of Edensor Park where they have only lost once in the last two years. With its league season over and a rest the weekend before the cup game, they will be refreshed and eager to give it everything in front of their home fans. They have plenty of scoring options as the game against FNQ showed, with former A-League talent Matty Sim and Glen Trifiro, as well as leading scorer Pana Nikas who are well supported by Yutaro Shin.
George Katsakis’ Bergers showed in their match against Perth Glory that they are up for the challenge. Unlike Sydney United, they won’t have a rest the weekend before the match as they will be striving to land the Premier’s Plate on Sunday, needing at least a draw away to Bulleen Lions to secure a historic trophy win for the club. Katsakis will be hoping his players emerge unscathed from the match at the Veneto club, but no doubt he’ll welcome the chance for his players to play on the artificial pitch at Bulleen before the trip to Sydney.
As well as being old NSL adversaries, the Bergers and Sydney United have also met once before in the FFA Cup, coincidentally in a Rd of 16 match in 2015, when Heidelberg won 2-0 at home. On that occasion, current Heidelberg striker came on as a sub to score a late goal to seal the result for the Bergers.