Melbourne City FC will look to extend its four-game winning run in the A-League Women when the team hosts Brisbane Roar on Thursday night.
Rado Vidosic’s side has put itself in a strong position late in the 2021/22 campaign, with its recent victory over league-leaders Sydney FC opening the door for City to finish first if it can win its three remaining fixtures.
With so much at stake on Thursday, here’s what you should be watching for when the teams take to the pitch:
Who leads the line?
City outperformed the expectations of many when the team beat Sydney 2-1 last weekend without their Kiwi stars Rebekah Stott and Hannah Wilkinson, but the win came at a cost, with Holly McNamara sadly suffering a season ending knee injury.
Now without both of his established strikers, Rado Vidosic will have to search for an alternative solution to face the Roar.
Against Sydney, Rhianna Pollicina accompanied McNamara in the final third in the absence of Hannah Wilkinson, and will likely be utilised there again on Thursday.
Who she will partner is the real question; a move further afield is a possibility for attacking midfielder Leticia McKenna, who made her first start of the season in Sunday’s pivotal victory, though the nearest like-for-like replacement for McNamara would be pacey 16-year-old attacker Caitlin Karic.
The Pascoe Vale product has made four appearances off the bench in her debut season and is approaching 100 minutes of professional playing experience, but will be relied upon heavily to help City to claim all three points as we look to leapfrog Sydney at the top of the table.
Additional responsibility on our wing-backs
Of course, the attacking burden shouldn’t fall entirely to Pollicina and her strike partner on Thursday night, so we’ll need to see our wing-backs do their best to provide support and additional goal threat to overload the Roar in the final third.
Tyla-Jay Vlajnic and Kaitlyn Torpey, who’ve spent much of the season as our predominant left and right wing-backs, were a significant part of City’s big upset win over Sydney on Sunday, with the former assisting Pollicina’s opener before the defenders combined for the second goal.
The pair have two goals and three assists between them this campaign, but for either of them to add to that tally on Thursday would go a long way to helping City to an important fifth-consecutive victory.
How strongly can City see out the 90?
McNamara’s forced substitution against Sydney was certainly a hammer blow for Vidosic’s side, but the fact that several City players also went down, mostly with cramp, later in the contest will have onlookers concerned about how the team will cope with a short four-day turnaround between games.
As alluded to previously, it’s vital that City takes every available point over the remainder of the season, so how well the team is able to close out Thursday night’s game could prove pivotal to our prospects on that front.
Whether his squad’s fitness encourages Vidosic to rotate his starting lineup further or make early second-half substitutions that he wouldn’t have otherwise made on Thursday remains to be seen, but the City Head Coach and his team will have to find a way to keep winning if they want to give themselves the best chance at a third A-League Women Premiership.