ALW Preview: Sydney FC v City

Melbourne City is currently deep in preparations for a big away trip to face Sydney FC at Allianz Stadium this Saturday afternoon.

As we hit the second half of the season, things are getting tight at the top of the table with both teams well and truly alive in the race to the Premiership.

It’s set to be the beginning of a season-defining period for City, as four of its next five fixtures will come against the other sides currently in the top four on the table.

Here’s a few of the key things to watch for this Saturday:

The race to the plate

An extended A-League Women season means that with 11 City games now played, we’re only just hitting the second half of the season rather than the final weeks.

It’s a welcome change across the league, and now the attention begins to turn to see who is going to be crowned this season’s Premiers.

After going so close last season, City will be desperate to add more silverware to its trophy cabinet and is currently right in the mix to do so.

City currently sits second on the table – two points behind Western and four ahead of Sydney FC – although it has played more fixtures than both teams.

An away win on Saturday would provide a handy buffer over the Sky Blues, and also could see City into top spot should Western United draw or lose.

It won’t be easy, especially given Sydney is yet to drop a point at home this season and is coming into the fixture fresh off having put six goals past Victory, but expect Dario Vidosic’s squad to leave everything out there come Saturday afternoon.

The importance of another clean sheet

While the goals may have dried up a little in recent weeks compared to what we saw earlier in the season, City’s defence has ensured it doesn’t need many opportunities in front of goal to make the opposition pay.

City’s in-form backline (and of course ‘keepers Melissa Barbieri and Sally James) have allowed just three goals in its last seven games, keeping clean sheets in five of those fixtures.

Captain Emma Checker’s inclusion has been big, while 18-year-old Naomi Chinnama and New Zealand international Katie Bowen have impressed since Round 1.

They’ll this Saturday face their toughest test of the season, a Sydney FC side that is currently leading the league in goals per game and fresh off putting six past fellow top four side, Melbourne Victory.

City’s defence will have to once again be at the top of its game to null the attacking threats the Sky Blues pose.

Does Dario change a winning formula?

It’s always tough for any coach to change a winning line-up, which is just the challenge that Dario Vidosic is faced with this week.

While the scoreline only read 1-0 when the full-time whistle blew last Sunday, it was a strong performance from City who never really gave Adelaide a sniff.

Teenage sensation Daniela Galic found herself on the bench for that clash, while Karly Roestbakken was missing from the squad completely, rested due to soreness.

Both are expected to be right back in the selection mix for this Saturday, meaning there could be some unlucky omissions.

Returning to the XI last time out, Leticia McKenna and Bryleeh Henry both performed admirably and would certainly feel hard done by to lose their spot.

It’s the kind of headache that any coach doesn’t mind having and with such a crucial game ahead, there will be plenty of eyes on the XI when it’s released early Saturday afternoon.

How have our opponents been travelling?

Sydney FC comes into this clash as one of the in-form teams in the competition, having won seven of its eight. The only time last season’s Premiers dropped points in that period was away to the ladder leaders in Western United.

The Sky Blues were most recently in action last Thursday away to Victory, securing the points in a high-scoring affair (3-6) in which Princess Ibini netted a hattrick.

What happened last time?

No need to spend too long on this one…

The last time teams met came in last season’s Semi Final, where City went down 4-2 in extra time. A Hannah Wilkinson brace had the visiting City side ahead after an hour, but a late fightback from the hosts and a chaotic extra time period saw it advance to the Grand Final.