The second Melbourne Derby of the 2021/22 season is on the horizon as City and Victory prepare to meet at AAMI Park on Saturday.
The upcoming 37th iteration of the hallowed fixture will be a high-stakes clash for both sides, with City looking to extend its lead at the top of the table whilst the Victory seek to carve out a Finals place for itself amidst fierce competition.
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With so much on the line, there’s plenty to keep an eye out for when the teams do battle on Saturday night:
A vital third clean sheet at home
Whilst City’s goalscoring exploits have been thrilling throughout the 2021/22 season, our defensive record hasn’t been quite so impressive – though not as bad as it has been made out to be. Though we’d been leading the ‘goals conceded’ tally up until only recently, our defence actually registers a league-middling 1.37 goals per game. Instead, the fascination with our defensive ‘woes’ likely stems from our securing of just two clean sheets in 18 games.
The cauldron-like Derby atmosphere also looms as a massive opportunity for 22-year-old Matt Sutton to step up and secure a first-ever clean sheet in his bid to tighten his grip on the #1 goalkeeping spot ahead of Tom Glover.
Thus, there’d be no better occasion to record a third home clean sheet than in Saturday’s high-stakes Derby, where we’ll want to avoid offering even the slightest chance of a single point to our fierce rivals.
A disciplined and dominant defensive display is also pertinent given the form of Nick D’Agostino. The striker was afforded few starting opportunities at the beginning of the season, but often made an impact with late goals off the bench, as he did to secure Victory a point in the Christmas Derby.
The 24-year-old has more recently been rewarded for that form with regular starting opportunities, for which he has continued to repay the faith with goals. As it stands, D’Agostino is the only player in the league to record more than one goal involvement per 90 minutes – and he hasn’t even provided an assist yet.
With a clean sheet so vital for our chances of claiming all three points on Saturday, how the City backline deals with D’Agostino and his Victory teammates will be of keen interest to home fans at AAMI.
Fatigue to play a big role
Whilst the City boys will be coming off what seems like a rare seven-day break, Victory will have to combat the double-whammy fatigue of a three-day turnaround and international travel following their loss to Japan’s Vissel Kobe in the Asian Champions League on Wednesday.
A tiring Victory outfit after half-time of Saturday’s game looms as a massive opportunity for City; Tony Popovic’s side has shipped all but one of their 17 goals conceded in second halves this season.
With energetic attacking substitutes like Stefan Colakovski and Tsubasa Endoh for Patrick Kisnorbo to introduce to the contest off the bench, City looks poised to capitalise on a tiring Victory defence if that fatigue turns out to play the role that fans will be hoping for.