Melbourne City FC will face its biggest test this season when the team, missing some star players, takes on Sydney FC in a bid to close the gap at the top of the A-League Women table.
With the teams having already met once this season, here’s what to watch for this time around:
A top-of-the-table blockbuster with Premiership ramifications
With Sydney’s previous run of seven straight wins coming to an end earlier in the week, additional emphasis has been placed on this upcoming meeting between the two top A-League Women teams, with City possessing the opportunity to go ahead on points-per-game in the event of a win.
The Sky Blues played out a testing 2-2 draw against Melbourne Victory midweek – their first interstate away trip this season – and now have to face their second top four side away from home in four days, whilst City will have had a full week’s rest between games.
Whilst a victory would be an enormous boost to City’s hopes of a come-from-behind Premiership win, even a draw would be a positive result in the larger scheme; a single point will be enough to guarantee a return to Finals for our City girls after a difficult 2020/21 season.
There’s no doubt that Rado Vidosic’s side will need to put in its best performance yet in order to take points off the league leaders, but this squad certainly has the potential to do so if everything comes together on the day.
How City fares without its Football Ferns
Of course, the task of pulling off such a pivotal win at home will be made all the more difficult by two massive personnel losses ahead of the clash.
New Zealand are currently competing in the SheBelieves Cup, an invitational national team tournament hosted by the US, and have called up Hannah Wilkinson and Rebekah Stott to represent the Football Ferns at the competition.
Whilst all at City are overjoyed by Stott’s return to international football 12 months after her cancer diagnosis, both she and Wilkinson will be sorely missed against Sydney FC on Sunday.
Defensive midfielder Meisha Westland could be used as a direct replacement for Stott, having come on as a substitute for the Kiwi several times this season, but Vidosic will also have the option of dropping Leah Davidson deeper, in a role similar to what she played last season, and selecting Leticia McKenna to the starting XI for the first time in her City career.
Up front, Wilkinson will be particularly difficult to replace given the striker’s unique physical profile and accompanying ‘target-player’ skillset, so Vidosic will have a tough decision to make about which player/s will accompany Holly McNamara, who will likely have to spearhead the attack, and in which formation.
A different contest to that January meeting
Whilst the 3-0 scoreline to Sydney FC may tell a one-sided narrative of the last meeting between the league’s top two sides, observers of the game will tell you that it was a much closer contest than the three-goal margin would suggest.
The home side only narrowly pipped the visiting City on shots (12 to 10) and shots on target (seven to five), whilst Vidosic’s side enjoyed 58% possession.
An inspired performance from Sydney FC keeper Jada Whyman saw several big City chances go begging, with her side mostly doing the damage on the counter, catching the City backline out on several occasions and having the goals to show for it.
However, that encounter was marked by the absence of each side’s Australian national team representatives, namely Holly McNamara for City and Remy Siemsen and Cortnee Vine for Sydney, but the Matildas teammates will line up against each other this time around.
With each player bringing unique traits to their teams that were missing in that 3-0 result, fans could see a very different contest overall when the teams face off on Sunday.