What to watch for: City v Wellington

After more than a two-week COVID-enforced break from action, your City boys are almost finally set to return to the pitch for the first time since a pulsating 2-2 Melbourne Derby draw in mid-December.

There will be plenty on the line too, with Patrick Kisnorbo’s men returning to action to host Wellington Phoenix in an FFA Cup Quarter Final on Wednesday night at Kingston Heath.

Entry to this clash is free for all City Members and fans, simply click here to register for your free ticket.

Here’s what you should be keeping on an eye out for in Wednesday night’s clash:

How sharp will the boys be after a COVID-affected two weeks?

The circumstances facing the squad are now entirely different to those presented when the teams were due to face on December 22.

Then, the boys were coming off a Saturday night Melbourne Derby, were set to play a Wednesday Cup fixture and then turn around again on Monday to face Brisbane Roar in the league.

Whilst managing the players’ load would have been a focus back then, Patrick Kisnorbo now faces the issue of his side not having had any match minutes and minimal training over the past two weeks due to COVID isolation. Additionally, how the players who tested positive fare against Wellington as they recover from the virus will also be of interest to onlookers.

Whether this means that Kisnorbo will need to go deeper into his squad to field a fit and firing starting XI remains to be seen, but it could present opportunities for those who may not have been in the picture two weeks ago.

A potential return to action for Colakovski

While it may feel like it was an eternity ago now, Jamie Maclaren’s late sending-off in the Melbourne Derby – the first red card of his professional career – will see him miss this fixture. Stefan Colakovski looms as one of the most likely candidates to be called upon by Kisnorbo to fill a significant void up top in Maclaren’s absence.

The 21-year-old has played just a handful of minutes for City since his start against South Melbourne in the FFA Cup Round of 32 – in part due to illness – and will be eager to get back on the pitch for his boyhood club and will certainly be one to watch if he is named to start on Wednesday.

Andrew Nabbout, Mathew Leckie, Manuel Pucciarelli and Max Caputo also loom as contenders to take up Maclaren’s vacated No. 9 role.

City to expose a weakened and underperforming Phoenix defence

In their six opening matches of the new Izuzu UTE A-League season, Wellington have failed to keep a clean sheet on their way to conceding a league-high 14 goals. This is also backed up by data from FootyStats stating that the Phoenix concede a higher Expected Goals (xG) value per 90 minutes than every other team but Macarthur – for those playing at home, City possess both the league’s best xG scored and xG conceded values.

The Phoenix’ plight has only compounded in recent weeks with a long-term injury to goalkeeper Oli Sail. The Wellington shot-stopper came off in the first half of Wellington’s 2-1 loss to Sydney on December 19, with 19-year-old Alex Paulsen making his A-League Men’s debut. Paulsen will likely start again to face City on Wednesday night.

Between Wellington’s leaky defence and key injuries, all the conditions are ripe for City’s attackers to hunt down the crucial goals that would see us through to the FFA Cup’s Semi-Finals stage.