Melbourne City will be looking to continue our strong recent form when we head to Sydney for the inaugural A-Leagues Unite Round.
Currently on a run of eight matches unbeaten across all competitions including back-to-back wins, the next challenge comes against Western Sydney this Friday night.
Here are a few of the major talking points heading into the clash!
A highly anticipated return
Some fans may have been shocked to see a particular name included amongst the ‘Ins’ for this week’s trip to Sydney.
Andrew Nabbout is set to make a remarkable return from an Achilles injury sustained in a behind-closed-doors pre-season friendly back in September.
It initially looked like he would miss the entirety of the 2023/24 season but after responding well to the early stages of rehab, Nabbout worked tirelessly with Club medical staff to now be cleared to return well ahead of the initial expected timeline.
A key part of our squad having made 82 appearances since joining the Club in 2020, Nabbout’s return is set to bring plenty of experience into the second half of the season.
Who comes in on the wing?
On the flip side of the injury news, Marin Jakolis is unfortunately set to be sidelined for the coming weeks.
Given that Nabbout has only just been cleared to return from a long-term injury, his return will likely come as a substitute, meaning Aurelio Vidmar will need to find a starting replacement for Jakolis on the wing.
Currently equal first in the league for assists, there will be big shoes to fill for whoever gets the starting nod.
Given Leo Natel possesses the capability to play on either the left or right wing, Vidmar will have a handful of different options for who partners him on the opposite side.
18-year-old Ben Mazzeo may get the first shot after having already started once this season, or Harry Politidis could be used on the left.
Another possible option could be moving Alessandro Lopane back out to the wing as we saw earlier in the season, which would then open the door for either Steven Ugarkovic or Terry Antonis to return in midfield.
Score first, score early
So far this campaign across the 11 games we’ve scored first in, we’re yet to taste defeat – winning eight and drawing the other three contests, all interestingly in 3-3 scorelines.
An early goal could prove pivotal, especially given we’re coming up against a Wanderers side who boasts the equal best defence in the A-League Men’s, allowing just 12 goals across the first 11 rounds.
Last week saw us come from behind to get over Western with a pair of wonder goals from Hamza Sakhi and Antonis, but Vidmar will be hoping to see some more creativity in possession this week with chances again likely to be at a premium.
The likes of Tolgay Arslan in midfield and Natel on the wing will likely be pivotal to the result, the pair needing to take on an even bigger load in terms of creativity with Jakolis sidelined.
A-League Men: Round 12
Melbourne City FC v Western Sydney Wanderers
Friday 12 January, 8:15pm KO