Hello everybody and welcome to live coverage of the top-of-the-table A-League clash between Melbourne City and Sydney FC. We’ll be underway at ANZ Stadium around 5pm.
This may be one versus two on paper, but with Sydney FC already wrapping up the premiers plate the jeopardy is all with second-placed Melbourne City.
Erick Mombaerts’ side are level on points (40) and goal difference (+8) with Wellington Phoenix, and two points ahead of fourth-placed Brisbane Roar. However, City have three matches to play, their rivals only two, so tonight provides a golden opportunity for the competition’s great underachievers to put daylight between them and the chasing pack in the race for the runners-up spot. It may sound like I’m labouring over a pyrrhic victory, but six previous runners-up have gone to become A-League champions, while only once has the toilet seat been lifted by a side outside the top two after the home and away portion of the campaign.
City have been boosted by the faltering form of their rivals since the restart, meaning their destiny is in their own hands. Perth Glory have collected just three out of nine points this month, Roar three from six, and Phoenix just four from 12. That said, City match up poorly against the Sky Blues, losing eight of their past nine against the defending champions, and they also struggle outside Victoria, winning only two of their last seven matches outside their home state.
With many clubs offering younger players opportunities since the season resumed, it will be interesting to see if Mombaerts goes down that path. City have long boasted an enviable array of young talent without always maximising their potential. At least one spot has opened up in the side’s best XI with Spanish forward Markel Susaeta not returning after the hiatus.
One player guaranteed a start is sharpshooter Jamie Maclaren. The Socceroo has found the back of the net 18 times his season so far, placing him level with Sydney’s Adam Le Fondre in the race for the Golden Boot. That pair are three ahead of Besart Berisha.
What about Sydney FC? For Steve Corica’s side it’s now all about timing their run for the finals. Expect plenty of squad rotation over their remaining four matches so that they’re cherry ripe by the playoffs. Despite wrapping up the premiers plate soon after the return to action, Sydney have performed below their best, seeing both Phoenix and Newcastle Jets enjoy the better of their past two matches. Corica will not want to stumble into the postseason in questionable form.
That’s enough from me for now. If you want to get in touch at any point, you can find me on Twitter or by email.