What to watch for: City v Western Sydney

Melbourne City FC will play its first A-League Men fixture it three weeks when it hosts Western Sydney on Sunday evening.

City will be aiming to return to the winner’s list after a disappointing result midweek, going down to Wellington Phoenix in an FFA Cup penalty shootout.

Here’s what you should be keeping an eye out for in Sunday’s big clash:

How strong a lineup can be named amidst COVID recoveries and midweek action

Whilst 120 minutes midweek isn’t ideal in the leadup to an important league fixture, Patrick Kisnorbo will have faith that his squad is deep enough to overcome these obstacles.

The team could be bolstered by the returns of those who didn’t make it to the midweek squad as they recovered from COVID, whilst there are several high-profile players who only played around half of the total 120 minutes, including Mathew Leckie, Andrew Nabbout, Florin Berenguer, Manuel Pucciarelli, Aiden O’Neill and Connor Metcalfe.

Meanwhile, a youthful brigade of capable deputies is also available for Kisnorbo to call upon, such as Jordan Bos and Kerrin Stokes, who may be required depending on the fitness of their more senior positional counterparts Scott Jamieson and Nuno Reis, who both played the full 120.

The Return of the Mac

Jamie Maclaren’s back this weekend and you can be sure he’s out for redemption.

He may not have played in the midweek game but he’ll be just as eager to help the team get back to winning ways, and there’s no opposition he’d rather be facing than Western Sydney.

The striker has scored more goals against the Wanderers than any other team he’s faced in his career, netting an incredible 18 goals in 17 appearances overall.

His record against them for Melbourne City is even better, scoring seven times in the five meetings he’s had with the Wanderers in City blue.

The team needed an attacking threat in his absence on Wednesday, but now that he’s had additional rest he should be fit and firing to compensate for his midweek absence with a strong performance against Western Sydney on Sunday.

Whether we can start being more clinical inside the area

Maclaren’s return is also welcomed as the team looks to correct its current underperformance when presented with shooting opportunities inside the opposition area.

The team has scored seven goals in five Izuzu UTE A-League matches this season, despite an Expected Goals figure of 9.7 according to FootyStats, meaning we’ve scored three fewer goals than expected based on the quality of chances we’ve created.

Our midweek performance against Wellington exhibited a different issue, where we struggled to create chances altogether, but we’ll hope to solve both issues on Sunday evening.

Maclaren’s intelligent movement around the penalty area will hopefully see more chances overall, whilst we’ll be counting on his lethal finishing to secure us the goals that will lock up an important three points.

Whilst it’s not just up to Maclaren to make things happen in the final third for City, you can be sure that he’ll want to be the one at the centre of it all regardless.