Melbourne City FC will look to tighten its grip on top spot when it travels to face Wellington Phoenix away from home on Saturday.
The team has been dominant when playing interstate this season, recording six wins and two draws and will be looking to carry on this good form against a team that will fancy itself as a Finals contender.
Here’s what to watch for in the first clash between the teams in the 2021/22 season:
A far more in-form City than the Phoenix faced last time
Fans will begrudgingly recall the FFA Cup Quarter Final encounter between these teams, when an undermanned and out of form City team drew a blank over 120 minutes and ultimately fell short on penalties.
To that point of the season, City’s attacking unit hadn’t yet found its feet as a whole, with Andrew Nabbout and Jamie Maclaren accounting for most of the goal involvements.
Since then, the emergence of Mathew Leckie, Florin Berenguer and Marco Tilio has made keeping City scoreless a near-impossible task given the sheer number of attacking threats on the pitch; shut down one player and another will make you pay all the same.
A revitalised City side high on confidence
Patrick Kisnorbo’s side has done it tough over the past few weeks as injuries and selection unavailability had left the squad without several key players at a vital stage in the Premiership race.
This gave way to an inspirational pair of wins on the road last week from a younger, inexperienced-looking City side that defied the odds to collect six points from its fixtures against Brisbane Roar and Macarthur FC which saw the team establish a three-point lead at the top of the table.
Already buzzing from those big wins, the team is now set to regain Marco Tilio and Connor Metcalfe from national team duties for its clash with Wellington on Saturday.
The upcoming fixture looms as an opportunity to build on our confidence even more by drawing level with our record undefeated streak of 10 games, set late last season, so the conditions can’t get much better for our City boys, who will be fresh from a week off and eager to collect another massive three points.
What could be a tantalising contest
Saturday’s fixture looks fascinating for a variety of reasons; aside from three points being vital for our Premiership prospects, the clash could be much tighter than the current table suggests as City and Wellington rank second and third on a points-per-game basis whilst also respectively being the best away and home teams in the league.
City hasn’t lost a game when playing interstate – where its six wins and two draws equates to the same total of 20 points that we’ve gathered playing at AAMI, but in five fewer games – whilst the Phoenix have won seven of their 10 ‘home’ fixtures this season. These games of course being played across New South Wales with the Phoenix yet to properly return home to Wellington.
With these factors writing the narrative for a tight contest, the fixture might therefore be decided by fatigue – namely Wellington’s – given their short turnaround between games and knack for conceding second-half goals (82% of their season total) in contrast to City’s seven-day break since beating Macarthur last weekend.