What to watch for: City v Wellington

Melbourne City FC will be returning to the pitch for the first time in a couple of weeks in the Liberty A-League when it hosts Wellington for the first time ever on Sunday afternoon.

This will mark the first ever meeting between teams as City look to make it four wins in its first five games.

Here’s what you should be keeping an eye out for on Sunday:

Wilkinson v Wellington

Whilst several of City’s attacking players will be eager to make an impact against Wellington, it’ll be hard to keep our eyes off Hannah Wilkinson in her first appearance since her five-goal haul in the Melbourne Derby on Boxing Day.

The Phoenix bear the unfortunate tag of being the league’s worst defence, conceding 14 goals in their past four games despite a promising 0-0 draw in Round 1.

With the youngest squad in the league (an average age of just over 21), Wellington have struggled against the proven quality and experience of their recent opponents and the task won’t get any easier when they face City this Sunday.

Current golden-boot leader Wilkinson tops the league for total shots (5.00) and shots on target (3.00) per 90 minutes, plus City lead all other sides in the same metrics (16.50 and 7.75 respectively).

City’s Kiwi striker may be facing her nation’s only professional Women’s football team, but the stats suggest she’ll be a force to be reckoned with playing against some familiar opponents.

City to focus on avoiding another second-half slump

The trend may have been papered over by nine points from our opening four games, but City’s form in second halves this season has been of slight concern.

City have been dominant in opening periods, having scored six goals and are yet to concede in the first 45 minutes of a game. In second halves however, we’ve scored four and conceded four, and are particularly leaky between the 65th and 70th minutes, conceding three goals in that specific interval.

Given Wellington have scored just one goal this season, the Melbourne City defence will be desperate to hold out in the second half and secure a clean sheet that would put us a long way towards another important three points.

A full 90 minutes from Stotty?

One of City’s best performers across the team’s opening four games has been Rebekah Stott, with the Kiwi, historically utilised as a centre-back, operating in a new midfield role that only exemplifies her quality and versatility.

Fulfilling an all-action midfield role in which she tenaciously protects City’s back-three whilst also having a key role in progressing the ball to her more advanced teammates, Stott has been integral to Rado Vidosic’s side whilst arguably going under the radar due to the more pronounced performances of her attacking teammates.

However, as she continues to build up match fitness following her battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Stott has been substituted off in each of City’s four games thus far, departing in the 61st, 66th, 76th and 78th minutes respectively.

A two-week break between Liberty A-League fixtures may prove beneficial for City’s record appearance-maker, or it could have halted any progress she’d made over the opening month of the season.

Another premature departure from this weekend’s contest may be what’s deemed best for Stott as she continues her recovery, but fans will almost certainly hope to see her run out a full 90 for the first time this season.