What to watch for: Western United v City

City will be looking to win back-to-back A-League Men games for the first time this season it takes on Western United this Saturday.

Although technically a City away game, Saturday night’s fixture will be played at AAMI Park.

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

A transformed City side from the one United last beat

When the teams last met in Round 3 of this season, Western United handed City its sole loss of the 2021/22 campaign thus far, running out 1-0 winners thanks to a clinical Dylan Wenzel-Halls finish under pressure.

That fixture took place during a period where, despite scoring four goals in the three games to that point, the City boys had been neither as clinical nor as creative as they would have expected of themselves, and that showed on the night with United able to comfortably defend their one-goal lead after securing it early on.

However, that period of struggle in front of goal ironically ended with City’s 2-2 draw in the Christmas Derby and continued with good attacking performances throughout an otherwise frustrating run of three consecutive draws, and more recently, our 3-1 win over the Mariners.

After starting the season with five goals in our opening four games, the City boys have since doubled their output in our most recent four, netting on 10 occasions, to top the league overall for goals scored and total shots per 90 minutes.

By contrast, over the same time period as our four-game undefeated run, Western United have played just two games, losing both and conceding five goals despite their strong defensive start to the season in which they’d previously only conceded once.

Hopefully, we can expect an entirely different encounter when the teams face this time around, with Saturday night’s result having a nice City blue tilt to it.

Some big ins…

One of the defining circumstances around City’s vital win against the Central Coast Mariners last weekend was its makeshift back four that included two teenagers and an out-of-position midfielder.

Fortunately, youngsters Jordan Bos and Kerrin Stokes turned in outstanding performances that contributed significantly to the three-point result, whilst Aiden O’Neill was, unsurprisingly given his quality and versatility, also excellent playing as a central defender rather than in his usual defensive midfield role.

City fans will no doubt still be grateful for the returns of senior defenders Scott Jamieson and Nuno Reis to the matchday squad as the pair return from their one-week suspensions.

Fans will also be hoping for a return to fitness for Rostyn Griffiths and Curtis Good as the defensive duo continue their recovery from COVID-19 infections.

Some big outs…

Whilst the squad inclusions are certainly welcome, they’ll only soften the blow of City’s loss of four key personnel heading into the Western United clash.

Mathew Leckie, Jamie Maclaren, Connor Metcalfe and Marco Tilio will all be away on Socceroos duty when the match takes place, leaving Patrick Kisnorbo with several holes to fill in the starting lineup.

Metcalfe and Tilio’s absence in midfield opens the door for several potential deputies, arguably headlined by Manuel Pucciarelli, who could make his much-anticipated debut in the Izuzu UTE A-League.

Up front, Leckie and Maclaren’s departures from the starting lineup will necessitate replacements in the left-wing and striker positions. Stefan Colakovski will undoubtedly be one of the first names touted by fans to fill the void up top, but the aforementioned Pucciarelli or young Max Caputo could also find themselves lining up in the #9 spot on Saturday.

As for the left wing…

Jordan Bos in a potential second City start

With regular left-wing deputy Marco Tilio also set to be absent from the upcoming matchday squad, the doors have been opened for a possible second-consecutive start in the Izuzu UTE A-League for Jordan Bos following a Player of the Match performance in his first.

The versatile left-back, who has also been deployed higher up the field in the FFA Cup for City this campaign, showed off his technical qualities and close control against the Mariners, capped off by an impressive dribble into the box and eventual shot that set up Maclaren’s opener.

Though Kisnorbo will undoubtedly leave several options available to him to fill the left-wing spot, a second-consecutive league start would be a deserved reward for the 19-year-old as his stature within the Melbourne City squad grows.