It’s been a long wait but the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition is back.
After a forced 19 week lay-off, the league will return for a thrilling 11-week regular season but with a few unique differences.
Joining the top tier NPL NSW Men’s competition is Western Sydney Wanderers who will play in the NSW state league top flight for the first time after replacing Sutherland Sharks just for this season only.
There will be no relegation or promotion this season with teams playing to qualify for a two-week finals series.
Teams have retooled during the long break with most teams forced into a reshuffle of their rosters.
The new players, and in some cases new coaches, will give a fresh element to the league and could shake up the pecking order.
Reigning Champions APIA Leichhardt kick-off the competition restart against Marconi Stallions as part of a Friday night football feast which also includes Manly United hosting Rockdale and Blacktown City taking on North Shore Mariners.
The remaining three matches will take place on Sunday starting with a clash between Wollongong Wolves and Mt Druitt Town Rangers.
Two huge derby clashes wrap up the weekend’s action as Sydney United 58 take on fierce rivals Sydney Olympic, while for the first time in the NPL1 competition Sydney FC will go up against Western Sydney Wanderers.
APIA Leichhardt FC v Marconi Stallions, 7pm. Friday at Lambert Park
Reigning premiers APIA Leichhardt return to action with a clash against rivals Marconi Stallions at Lambert Park this Friday.
The two competition heavyweights will be determined to test where each side are at after such a long layoff which could make for a fast-paced start.
Before the lockdown, APIA started the season undefeated with two draws and a win from their opening three matches.
Marconi was also undefeated before the shutdown with three wins from three matches.
APIA will return to the field with almost the same side that started the season.
Chris Payne will once again lead the attack supported by captain Sean Symons, winger Corey Bizco and club talisman Franco Parisi.
APIA’s defence also remains the same with Themba Muata-Marlow, Josh Symons, Paul Galimi and Micahel Kouta all set to line-up at the back.
One big change for APIA is the departure of Ivan Necevski who has decided to sit out the remainder of the 2020 campaign.
Luke Turnbull will take on the role of custodian for the rest of the season.
Coach John Calleja will likely not change too much of the formula which helped the team to title success in 2019 but may need to make the most of his coaching skills to have his players firing after such a long layoff.
Marconi was just as lucky with no changes to their roster after the shutdown.
The Stallions remain strong across the park with stars such as Marko Jesic, Anthony Frangie, Connor Evans and the Speranza brothers all ready to hit the ground running. Anthony Costa will also be keen to impress since his move from South Australia and will be one to watch out for as well.
It will be a huge game to start the season and one you won’t want to miss.
Manly United FC v Rockdale City Suns, 7.30 pm Friday at Cromer Park
Manly United will be determined to hit the ground running when they restart their season against Rockdale City Suns at Cromer Park on Friday night.
Paul Dee’s side had a difficult start to the season before the shutdown losing two of their first three matches and will be hoping to use the enforced break as a fresh start.
Their opponents Rockdale City Suns were undefeated in their three games earlier this year including a dramatic win against Manly back in March.
Manly has had a few changes to their roster since that match with Richie Cardozo, Sasa Macura and Jack Fulton all sitting out the competition restart.
Defender Jimmy Oates comes into the side as a replacement.
Paul Dee will rely on captain Brendan Cholakian to drive the side’s attack while also utilising the talents of Dejan Pandurevic and Scott Balderson.
Sam Gallagher will return to the centre of defence in front of shot-stopper Dylan Mitchell.
Rockdale has had a few major departures of their own with star attacker Alec Urosevski and midfielder Michael Neill not returning to finish the campaign.
Incoming is new signings Jaden Casella, Kyle Cimenti and Zander Reagan.
Rising star Sam Guilisano will be determined to come back in the same impressive form he showed before the enforced break, while captain Daniel Petkovski will be back where he belongs to marshall the heart of the Rockdale defence.
A winning start could give both sides the momentum they need in the sprint towards the finals.
Blacktown City FC v North Shore Mariners, 7.30 pm Friday at Lily Homes Stadium
Lily Homes Stadium will be alight as Blacktown City restart their season against North Shore Mariners on Friday.
Blacktown were on fire in the opening three games before the shutdown with captain and defender Matt Lewis a surprise leading goal scorer.
North Shore, in what is their first season back in the top flight, had a win against Wollongong Wolves and a draw against APIA in their first three games before the enforced break.
Blacktown has brought in former A-League rookies Mario Shabow and Daniel Alessi while Shaun Catlin replaces Tristan Prendergast who has left the club after sighing for Western Sydney Wanderers.
Blacktown has a very solid squad across the park and with Grant Lynch and Lewis marshalling the defence, while Daniel Araujo, Dakota Askew and Leroy Jennings provide a solid link through the midfield.
North Shore will return to the field without star recruit Panny Nikas who decided to not play out the season, while Daniel Saric and Damir Prodanovic also departed.
Replacing them in the squad is recruits, Charles Williams and Jack Musgrave.
It will be a big test for North Shore against a Blacktown team which has a reputation for being one of the most well-drilled outfits in the competition.
It will be a great matchup and one not to be missed.
Wollongong Wolves FC v Mt Druitt Town Rangers FC, 2.30pm Sunday at Albert Butler Memorial Park
Luke Wilkshire’s Wollongong Wolves host Mt Druitt Town Rangers at Albert Butler Memorial Park on Sunday to kick start their return to the NSW NPL competition.
The Wolves, the 2019 season Premiers, will be hoping to make a winning comeback after the shutdown.
Wilkshire has kept the majority of his squad however must find a way to cover the loss of talismanic striker Thomas James who signed for Perth Glory in the A-League.
Veteran goalkeeper Justin Pasfield has also declared he will not return for the competition restart.
Coming in is former Central Cast Mariners frontman Josh Bingham as well as custodian Luke Kairies.
Former Wanderers forward Lachlan Scott, defenders Nikola Djordjevic and Nick Littler as well as Harry Callahan remain with the team and will need to carry the load for the South Coast Side.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers biggest change has been in the coaching department with Franco Cosentino taking over from Aiden Desmond who moves into a management position at the club.
Captain Carlos Saliadarre will have his team fired up and ready to deliver results for their new gaffer.
Sunday’s match will be a tough first match for Cosentino in the Rangers hot seat but hopefully, his appointment can give Mt Druitt a new lease on life. One huge loss for the Rangers will be that of star attacker Mirjan Pavlovic who has since returned to his former club Sydney United 58 but the club has managed to recruit former Sydney Olympic striker Jack Stewart and ex-Sutherland Sharks player Brodie Clarkson.
Wollongong, on the other hand, will need to get used to life without their best player in James as well as one of their most experienced in shot-stopper Pasfield.
It is sure to be an enthralling clash.
Sydney United 58 FC v Sydney Olympic FC, 3pm Sunday at Sydney United Sports Centre
Traditional rivals Sydney United 58 and Sydney Olympic will reacquaint themselves on Sunday as part of the first round of the NSW NPL restart.
It is a match which always features plenty of feeling and that is likely not to change for Sunday’s clash.
Sydney United, coached by former AC Milan and Socceroos keeper Zjelko Kalac, will be looking make a fast start as the competition resumes and victory against their fierce rivals would be a major sign of intent from the Edensor Park based side.
Sydney Olympic have a new coach and will want to give Ante Juric a winning start to his tenure after taking over from Terry Palapanis.
It’s not the only change at Belmore with Spanish midfielder Raul Beneit departing the side.
Former Sydney FC defender Ben van Meurs has joined Olympic and will be looking to hit the ground running with a strong early showing.
Star recruits Fabio Ferreira, Charles Lokolingoy, Seb Ryall and Adam Parkhouse return, as do club stalwarts Jason Madonis, Thomas Whiteside and William Angel.
Sydney United 58 go into the match without striker Patrick Antelmi who and midfielder Yianni Perkatis who signed A-League contracts during the competition shut down.
Among those returning is veteran Mat Sim, skilful midfielder Devante Clut and defender Yianni Fragogiannis. Jacob Poscoliero has also been drafted to the squad to assure the club’s backline while former crowd favourite Mirjan Pavlovic returns to his old stomping ground ready to score more goals for his beloved United 58.
Both sides won’t give away too much so expected a hard-fought clash.
With more than just competition points on the line expect nothing less than fireworks in this massive fixture.
It is one not to be missed.
Sydney FC v Western Sydney Wanderers FC, 6.30 pm Sunday at Ilinden Sports Centre
The first-ever clash of the fierce A-League rivals in the NPL NSW Men’s top tier competition is set to end the first weekend of matches with a bang when they face off at Ilinden Sports Centre on Sunday.
Western Sydney Wanderers were added to the NPL NSW top tier competition as a replacement for Sutherland Sharks who decided to sit out the revised season.
Sydney FC showed strong signs before the shutdown including a 4-0 win against North Shore Mariners.
Unfortunately for the Young Sky Blues, they will enter the restarted competition with a vastly changed squad after eight of their players were called up into the A-League team.
Luke Ivanovic, Jordi Swibel, Marco Tilio, Jordi Swibel, Patrick Flottmann, Callum Nieuhof, Adam Pavlesic and Joel King will be unavailable for coach Jimmy van Weeran leaving a major gap in his squad.
Van Weeran will call on players from the Sydney FC’s Under-20 and Under-18 squad to fill the void, hoping the youngsters can make their most of their promotion. Benjamin Koop, Jaiden Kucharski, Callum Talbot and Thomas Fay are just some of the players to watch out for.
The Wanderers, on the other hand, come into the match with a squad list littered with talent.
A-League regulars Tass Mourdoukoutas, Tate Russell, Jordan O’Doherty, Nicholas Suman and Mo Adam, as well as Australian U-17, shot stopper Oliver Kalac.
It is a team which could give the competition a real shake-up and take it to the league’s best.
Sunday’s match is sure to have plenty of feeling being a derby match so expect it to go down to the wire.