Melbourne City FC will host another high-stakes late-season clash on Wednesday night as it looks to secure another vital set of three points in front of home fans against Sydney FC.
A win would see our lead at the top of the table extended to eight points, a massive boost to our Premiership prospects despite Western United holding a valuable three games in hand.
With so much riding on the outcome of the encounter, here’s what you should be watching for in our return to AAMI:
A carry-over from Saturday
Whilst the interstate, behind-closed-doors nature of the fixture may have taken some of the attention away from the achievement, Saturday’s 6-0 demolition of Wellington Phoenix – the league’s biggest winning margin since our 7-0 Derby demolition last season – could be exactly the huge confidence booster that City needs to take their Premiership tilt to the next gear late in the 2021/22 campaign.
Whilst the City boys have obviously had another great season in terms of points, they haven’t often experienced the high of dominant, one-sided wins where they’ve totally outclassed their opposition on the day – Saturday was just the second time (out of 12 victories) that we’ve won by three or more goals, a feat we achieved on five occasions in 2020/21.
With the team also having kept consecutive clean sheets for the first time this season and set to welcome back star players to the starting XI, the conditions are ripe for City to take its confidence from a dominant performance into its return to AAMI Park on Wednesday.
Speaking of star players, there are few A-League attackers more in-form than Mathew Leckie at present, with the City winger having recorded seven goals and two assists in his past nine league appearances.
Going at a rate of 0.82 goal involvements per 90 minutes, Leckie is having the most prolific season of his career by far and looks to only be getting better as the 2021/22 campaign hurtles towards its business end.
Whilst all of City’s attackers have been individually mesmerising this year, on current form alone, it’ll be all eyes on Leckie come Wednesday night in the hopes that he relishes his purple patch some more against the Sky Blues.
How does PK make six fit into five?
It’s a dilemma that has troubled the City Head Coach all season, but in light of the goalscoring spread in our 6-0 win over the weekend and the return to full match preparedness of Connor Metcalfe and Marco Tilio, Patrick Kisnorbo’s task of knowing which six players to squeeze into his front five positions has only grown more difficult.
Leckie’s recent form speaks for itself, and so too does Jamie Maclaren’s resume. Andrew Nabbout is back amongst the scorers, Florin Berenguer is an Alex Tobin medal favourite and Tilio has shown his undeniable quality again with his two-goal cameo off the bench against the Phoenix. Whilst he’s not as prolific as his aforementioned attacking teammates in front of goal, Metcalfe is a vital cog in the centre of midfield whose industrious performances are difficult to replicate, though Berenguer has taken his place there behind Tilio when the Socceroo midfielder has previously been unavailable, proving it remains a viable option.
Ultimately, a solution to the problem won’t be found here, nor will it likely be revealed until an hour before kick-off on Wednesday when Kisnorbo names his XI, but it’s definitely a positive dilemma that the City squad is so full of talented players vying for starting positions.