Melbourne City will take to the pitch for the first time since being crowned 2022/23 A-League Men’s Premiers this Saturday night against Western United.
The Premiership was secured following a weekend that saw City draw 1-1 away to Central Coast, before Adelaide went down the next day to our opponents this Saturday night.
Here are a few things to watch out for when the three-time Premiers make their return to AAMI Park!
A couple of big ins
Perhaps one of the most impressive parts of City’s history-making third consecutive Premiers Plate is the fact that it’s been done in the last couple of months without two key members of the squad.
Mathew Leckie was widely regarded as the best player in the league after he shot out to an almost insurmountable lead in the Alex Tobin Medal, dominating the first half of the season. Unfortunately though, he hasn’t been sighted in City blue since his Derby brace over two months ago.
Richard van der Venne is another who’s been out for an extended period after going down with a calf injury and then having his rehab lengthened after an unfortunately timed bout of illness.
He was another who’d been on fire for City earlier in the season, notably netting a hattrick in a big win over Macarthur earlier this year.
In some great news for City fans, both have been included in the squad for Saturday night and Rado Vidosic confirmed in his pre-match press conference that they’d both see the pitch in some capacity.
A chance to rest a few?
On the other end of the spectrum, there certainly are a few players who could do with a much-needed rest as we close in on Finals.
It’s been well-publicised that Jamie Maclaren has been playing through a broken toe for the last couple of months – so he could be one candidate for a rest, while Vidosic has also mentioned in past weeks that Andrew Nabbout and Florin Berenguer have also been battling niggles of their own.
Academy products such as Max Caputo and Raphael Borges Rodrigues are a pair who could be in line for some extended minutes as a result.
It’ll be a balancing act for Vidosic between ensuring his key players are as fresh as possible for finals, while also fully match-fit to ensure City is ready to push for another trophy.
We’ve now seen the same starting XI take to the pitch for three consecutive fixtures (2W, 1D), but you’d imagine that’s set to change come Saturday night.
Tuning up for Finals
As mentioned above, the next two weeks will be a balancing act for Vidosic and his City squad.
Both matches will likely be a case of City coming up against teams with plenty to play for.
Western United are currently fighting for a spot in Finals, while next week’s opponents, Western Sydney, are still an outside chance to finish second.
Speaking with media on Friday, Vidosic commented that he was looking forward to seeing how his team would react to facing teams who are in a must-win situation.
“This is how the Finals will be,” he said.
“We’ll play our first game of Finals away and whoever we play will throw everything at us.
“They’ll try to press us, be aggressive, defend in numbers and play counter-attacking football.
“I’m looking forward to Saturday to see how we can contain them and manage the game given that’s what’s going to happen in Finals.”
What happened last time?
After some not-so-nice memories from last season, City has well and truly had the number of its cross-town rival in the 2022/23 campaign.
The most recent clash between teams saw us ahead 3-0 after just 25 minutes with Marco Tilio and Jamie Maclaren finding the back of the net either side of a Leo Lacroix own goal. Andrew Nabbout also popped up in the second half to add another to seal the big win.
How have our opponents been travelling?
Currently siting in eighth place, Western’s Finals hopes aren’t dead just yet, but they’ll certainly need all three points on Saturday night if they’re to remain alive beyond then.
City fans will likely remember their last clash well… Western United beating Adelaide 1-0 away from home thanks to a Connor Pain goal which was enough to crown us Premiers for the third year running.
A-League Men: Round 25
Western United v Melbourne City FC
Saturday 22 April, 7:45pm
Live on 10Bold and Paramount+