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I'm not into A-League sledging: Santalab

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 6/10/2016 Emma Kemp

Western Sydney refuse to be drawn into Sydney FC's pre-derby sledging, preferring to focus on a match they say could set up their A-League season.

The Sky Blues threw the first verbal fireballs before Saturday night's headline opening-round fixture at ANZ Stadium, when coach Graham Arnold claimed the Wanderers' home venue actually belonged to the Sky Blues on the basis they'd played more games there.

Captain Alex Brosque then stepped up the heat by revealing that before every derby, he told his teammates to "hate every single one of them".

But two days out from Saturday night's cross-city showdown, feisty Wanderers striker Brendon Santalab backed away from adding his own two cents.

"There's a red and black net here so it's clear to see we're at home," Santalab said on Thursday.

"I don't know where Arnie pulled that one from. He loves a pre-game banter.

"We won't buy into that - we're very focused on what we have to do.

"It's our job to play; sledging has never been a part of me before games - it's all about preparation and focus.

"Bosquey is a great guy. To hear him say that is a little bit disappointing, maybe because his family follow the Wanderers - I'm not too sure."

Santalab predicted an epic night in front of a crowd likely to break the attendance record for a club football game in Australia.

It also shapes as one with much at stake given Western Sydney have never won a first- or second-round fixture.

Tony Popovic's 2015-16 grand finalists enter the club's fifth campaign with yet another revamped squad who suffered a shock 4-1 FFA Cup quarter-final shellacking last month to Melbourne City.

Whether new faces can gel as well as Sydney appear to have done already will be key.

"If you win round one, you take a lot of confidence into the season," Santalab said.

"If you lose, it could set you back a little bit."

Off-season recruit Sydney defender Michael Zullo played in two Melbourne derbies last season for former club City.

But the 28-year-old left-back was expecting extra emotion on Saturday.

"I've spoken to players who have played in both the Melbourne and Sydney derby, and a lot of people say this one's got a bit more feeling in it," Zullo said.

"Maybe it's representative of the city itself."

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