Once again placed as one of the league’s great unknowns, Wellington Phoenix has been set an almighty challenge this season.
New boss Ufuk Talay has had re-build this team following the mass exodus at the end of last season, which has included the promotion of several local youth players.
The story of their season will be how their youth stacks up with the rest of the competition.
There is plenty of talent in the squad, with the likes of Reno Piscopo and Alex Rufer as well as captain Steven Taylor all capable players, albeit the lack of experience in the team could see them drop games.
Taylor remains the only player in the squad over 30, with the squad’s average age being just over 23.
Mexican recruit Ulises Davila is one to look out for and will looked upon as a source of goals following the departure of Roy Krishna, Sapreet Singh and David Williams.
The Phoenix host new-comers Western United in Round 1 in a contest the home supporters have been anticipating since Mark Rudan and several of their players made the switch over.
Western Sydney Wanderers
If there was ever a season for the Wanderers to perform in – it’s this one.
World class facilities and a brand new stadium, not to mention some handy recruitment has elevated the team’s status from no-hopers to contenders.
An honest Markus Babbel put last season’s misfortunes to a poor mindset, something the Wanderers have sought to rectify this pre-season.
Despite losing star playmaker Alexander Baumjohan, Babbel has recruited several international players who will fulfil significant roles for the team this season.
Moreover, the return to their spiritual home will no doubt galvinise the team and the club’s vocal supporter base who will return in their droves and continue to make plenty of noise – especially if results go their way.
After months of deliberation and anticipation the A-League finally has its eleventh team.
They have put in the hard yards in the pre-season and have made a statement in recruiting Alessandro Diamanti and Panagiotis Kone.
Mark Rudan also knows a thing or two about defying expectations and getting the best out of a group of players, which could see this new side cause a few surprises this season.
The mix of youth and experience is exciting – with the likes of Apostolos Stamatelopoulos and Bentleigh Greens product Valentino Yuel signing with the club.
Their first month includes a trip to New Zealand, hosting Perth Glory before two consecutive Melbourne derbies.
Many fans will be watching with keen interest as Rudan returns to Wellington in what should be a feisty contest between two sides determined to get their season off to a flyer.