The Sydney A-League derby obsession of Western Sydney Wanderers’ marquee Nico Martinez

For the past week Nicolas Martinez has been a man obsessed. The Western Sydney Wanderers’ marquee has barely put down his tablet in recent weeks with his eyes glued to hours of derby footage in anticipation for Saturday night’s clash against Sydney FC. The attacking midfielder has been studying every aspect of the crucial clash in preparation for the Wanderers’ biggest match of the season, one he believes will define their year.

Whether it’s been tactics, crowds or opponents, Martinez has been engrossed in what will be the first derby he will start in, in his career. 

“I was watching on the tablet the last five or six derbies – the atmosphere, the matches, the highlights, all of this. When we played at home it was amazing and now it’s going to be 40,000 also. I’ve seen how all the last derbies were to motivate me,” Martinez said. 

For the 29-year-old, few occasions in his career have been as important. A graduate from the Argentine school of football shares their obsession of “clasicos” where local bragging rights carry a meaning beyond traditional measures of success such as points or silverware. His native province of Buenos Aires boasts nearly 80 defined rivalries and despite playing for one of their giants, Independiente, Martinez never set foot inside a derby until arriving in Sydney. 

Martinez wouldn’t have known much about Sydney FC before signing, but his natural enthusiasm for derbies made beating the Sky Blues an instant goal. The 4-0 rout the Wanderers suffered in round one and their ensuing frustrations this season turned that desire into desperation ahead of Saturday. 

“The last derby wasn’t good for us which is why we’re giving a show to our fans and we need it, we need to get the three points. It’s going to be an amazing atmosphere and we’re going to try and fight for 90 minutes,” he said. 

Just two wins in the 13 games that followed saw the Wanderers slip outside the top six while the Sky Blues marched towards a commanding seven-point lead at the top of the table. Their contrasting form has made it vital that the Wanderers end their three-year winless record against Sydney FC and show they can topple the league leaders on the biggest stage. 

“I think it’s very important, not only because it’s a derby but the position we are,” Martinez said. “We need to win the derby, winning the league is the first thing. It will be an injection for us to be positive. If we can beat them, we can beat anybody. We have a strong mentality and I think we can do that. But, we have to show this in the derby, we have to take the three points here,” he said. “I don’t want to draw, I don’t care to draw, I want the three points, I want to win.”

After observing all that he can on the derby’s history, composure is the most crucial component according to Martinez. In their past eight games without a win against Sydney, the Wanderers have lead on three occasions. 

“It doesn’t matter if you are winning 1-0 or 2-0, you have to be focused because they can score again. Here in Australia, it doesn’t matter if it’s 2-0 or 3-0, in Australia the match is not finished,” he said.

While the heated battle of a cross-town rivalry might still be foreign for Martinez, his roots are in steeped in controlling contests and that’s how he’s prepared to steer the Wanderers to a breakthrough win.

“It’s very dynamic here, it’s a transition game. You attack, you defend, you attack, you defend even if you are winning,” he said. “Australian teams need to be more clever. If you are leading, you have to be difficult to break down. You have to close down sometimes, be compact and after play your football.”

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