City Head Coach John van’t Schip believes his team is prepared to engage in an “extended finals series” across its three remaining regular season matches, as the Hyundai A-League Premiership race tightens at the top.
Following Western Sydney Wanderers’ (42 points) 2-0 loss on Friday night, Brisbane Roar’s dramatic 3-2 win over Sydney FC (44 points), and with Adelaide United (40) to play on Sunday, the Premier’s Plate will go down to the wire with four points separating the top five teams.
City (41 points) has the chance to move to 44 points, alongside Roar at the pinnacle, with a win over Wellington Phoenix on Monday – and finish the round atop the A-League table at the conclusion of the Easter long weekend.
But while van’t Schip knows the importance of Easter Monday’s clash at AAMI Park and the unfamiliar position his team may find itself in, the Dutchman insists that it must approach every match like a final – and is wary of every opponent.
“We haven’t been in this situation [before]. But that is what we want and we’re happy we are in this situation,” van’t Schip said.
“Of course every game now is a final, it’s already an extended play-offs that we are in now.
“With the results of yesterday (Brisbane defeating Sydney FC) and knowing that we can go top, everybody knows, so we don’t need to put any more, let’s say, pressure.
“We just need to stick to our game plan, do what we need to do and then there is still two more games to go.
“First, there is this game. Wellington already showed before we had the three wins a row (over Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane) we had the game in Wellington where we lost (1-2).”
van’t Schip’s biggest selection concern is covering for the absent and in-form duo of Alex Wilkinson and Aaron Mooy who are in camp with the Socceroos for Tuesday’s World Cup Qualifier with Jordan (click here to see Round 25’s squad news).
“They [Alex and Aaron] have a big impact in the team, but we knew that [they would be unavailable], and we know that, but we have good players who step in, so we are not going to make any excuses about that.
“With Connor Chapman and Anthony Caceres we have two players who are capable of doing the same kind of job.
“Maybe they are different players, but they fit into the team in a very good way and so we will have a strong team tomorrow.”
A fourth consecutive win will see City move to top spot – the third occasion City have had the opportunity to move to the summit, given the congestion – which van’t Schip explains via two theories.
“I think there are teams [outside of the top six] can play freely and they get results that maybe normally they wouldn’t get.
“In the case of the top teams, last week of course there have been a few games where they are playing each other, so you are getting a result that may be negative for one of those teams, and positive [for the other] and if it is a draw, it may be positive for the other team that has to play the next day.
“In this league where the gaps are not that big and we only have 10 teams, results can change very quickly the table as it is now.
“It’s all about who is in the best momentum at the right time. We just have to make sure we make the effort that we are there Round 27, because we have three big games ahead of us, starting with Wellington.”