What’s changed since the 2021 Grand Final?

Almost a year on from the Club’s first ever Men’s Championship, City will have the chance to create more history at AAMI Park this Saturday night.

No team in the history of the A-Leagues has ever been able to call itself back-to-back Premiers and Champions – but a City win on Saturday will change that.

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Patrick Kisnorbo’s side has been the benchmark in recent seasons and are just the second team to appear in three consecutive Grand Finals.

While as it did in 2020/21, City has had another strong season resulting in a Premiership and qualification to a home Grand Final, plenty has changed since the final day of that season.

We took a look at a few of the key differences from last year to this year.

Our Socceroos are here

We’re sure you remember that we missed a number of key players due to national team duty throughout the 2021 Finals. Jamie Maclaren, Connor Metcalfe and Curtis Good, three key pillars of our starting XI, all watched on from hotel quarantine as their teammates lifted City’s first Champions trophy.

The trio have again put in solid seasons; Maclaren winning a third consecutive Golden Boot, Metcalfe taking out the Alex Tobin Medal, while Good has been reliable as ever at the back.

After the mixed emotions of seeing their team win but not being there themselves on the day, expect them to leave everything out on the pitch in pursuit of the Championship this Saturday night.

A departed Joe Marston Medallist but a replacement with something to prove

Nathaniel Atkinson was a star throughout the 2021 Final Series and a worthy recipient of the Joe Marston Medal, but after having been with the Club since the age of 15, made the move to Scotland in January.

Although Atkinson was mostly deployed as a right-back in his time at City, he’d found himself further up the pitch as a winger for last season’s Finals given a late-season injury to Andrew Nabbout.

Nabbout did everything he could to prove his fitness in the lead-up to the Grand Final and he was successful in being named in the matchday squad, seeing 16 minutes off the bench.

Now set to appear from the first whistle in this season’s decider, Nabbout will be ready to make his impact felt on the big stage.

A reversal of roles

City entered last season’s Grand Final up against a Sydney FC team that had been all-conquering for years. It was a case of City gunning for its first ever Championship against a Sydney team who were going for their third in a row.

We all know how that one ended – but this time around – the shoe is on the other foot.

Saturday night could see us lift our fourth piece of silverware in just over a year, while our opponents, Western United, will be playing in a first Grand Final in their short history.

It may appear as a case of City going from the ‘hunter’ to the ‘hunted’, but it’s not that simple – at least inside the four walls of the Club. Patrick Kisnorbo was regularly asked about this in pre-season and was always quick to shut it down, stating that his team are ‘still hunting’ as they have ‘a lot more to achieve.’

The hunt continues on Saturday as Kisnorbo looks to lead the side to what no A-Leagues team has ever done before.

A front three full of big names

It was a youthful front three getting the job done in the big dance last season, with Atkinson, Stefan Colakovski and Marco Tilio all making a name for themselves.

We’ve already mentioned the absences of Maclaren and Nabbout, but Craig Noone also struggled with injury late in the season and was ultimately an unused substitute on the final day of that season.

Of course we’ll all never forget our youthful attack standing up when it mattered most, but this Saturday we’re set to see a front three full of experience.

Joining Maclaren and Nabbout while be Mathew Leckie, who has been a standout in his first season in City blue after returning home following a decade in Germany.

It may’ve taken a little while for the goals to come, but Leckie still managed a fifth-place finish in the Golden Boot.

The trio of Leckie, Maclaren and Nabbout terrorised defences all season and finished with a combined 30 goals and 14 assists. City fans will certainly be hoping to see one more strong display from the star trio come Saturday night.

An All-Melbourne affair

The regular season saw the two teams trade first place on the table for much of the campaign and fittingly, an All-Melbourne Grand Final is what awaits us for the first time in A-Leagues history.

Adding to this is a stark contrast in styles, with City the highest scoring team of the season and Western having conceded the second least. The team in green in black made an early season habit of grinding out 1-0 wins, but in more recent times the goals have started to flow as evidenced by their 4-1 Semi Final second leg win.

No matter how the game plays out come Saturday night, expect an enthralling contest with everything to play for.