So the A-League’s first place versus second place matchup is finally here, and what a game it could shake up to be.
Sydney FC is six points clear of Melbourne City in first place, but if Melbourne is to win and make it three the league table starts to become a lot more interesting. On the other hand, if Sydney win, they go nine points clear on the top, giving them a huge boost going into next year’s game.
It’s all to play for in this match for both teams, and it really could go either way.
Sydney FC’s six-game winning streak came to an end last Saturday when Wellington Phoenix showed them up to grab a draw, although it easily could have been a win for the Phoenix.
Wellington showed Sydney FC’s weaknesses, perfectly executed by former Sydney assistant Ufuk Talay.
They frustrated Alex Baumjohann, played Kosta Barbarouses out of the game, didn’t allow any balls in behind and consistently pressed the Sydney backline, and in particular, Alex Wilkinson.
Sydney FC was without Milos Ninkovic but there was a massive difference in Sydney’s tempo and play when he came on, and the backroom staff will be doing all they can to get the majestic maestro fit for this clash.
Sydney FC squad
Sydney FC head into this top of the table clash with a boost as Michael Zullo is bolstered back into the squad in contention to face Melbourne City. Zullo hasn’t featured for the sky blues since their win over Western United on the first of December.
It is unlikely that Zullo will be ready to start, but it would be good for Steve Corica if he can get a few minutes off the bench to help bring his match fitness up. Unfortunately for the sky blues, Brandon O’Neil is still out with a knee injury as fans start to worry that the injury could be more serious than what first appeared.
Sydney FC predicted starting line-up
GK: Andrew Redmayne
LB: Michael Zullo
CB: Alex Wilkinson
CB: Ryan McGowan
RB: Rhyan Grant
CDM: Paulo Retre
CDM: Luke Brattan
LAM: Milos Ninkovic
RAM: Alex Baumjohann
ST: Adam Le Fondre
ST: Kosta Barbarouses
Melbourne City is coming off the back of a 2-1 derby loss to bitter rivals Melbourne Victory. They just never really seemed to get going in that game; the tempo of which they moved the ball around was a way to slow and they couldn’t get Jamie Maclaren into the game.
Maclaren for me is a player who can only play well when his team is playing well; he is a striker who consistently needs service, whether its balls into the box or balls over the top of the defence. Melbourne City and Erick Mombaerts need to find a way to get him into the game more often, because if Sydney FC finds a way of shutting him out I’m not sure where Melbourne City’s goals are going to come from.
Looking at goals conceded, surprisingly Melbourne City have conceded the second most with 16 so far this season. They will be coming up against the team that not only has scored the most goals (24) but also has the best conversion rate, 23 per cent, meaning they have taken just 133 shots but 24 of those have found the back of the net.
The city will have to be looking into doing a lot of work to stop Sydney scoring but have been given a bit of a blueprint by Wellington Phoenix.
Melbourne City squad
There isn’t much news on Melbourne City’s squad, Denis Genreau remains the only injured Melbourne City player while Moudi Najjar and Stefan Colakovski have both made the extended squad but will most likely be cut again. It will be interesting to see who Mombaerts chooses in goal, but Tom Glover will most likely edge it as Mombaerts won’t be looking to risk changing the keeper for this vital fixture.
Melbourne City predicted starting line-up
GK: Tom Glover
LB: Scott Jamieson
CB: Curtis Good
CB: Harrison Delbridge
RB: Scott Galloway
CDM: Connor Metcalfe
CDM: Joshua Brillante
LM: Craig Noone
CAM: Adrian Luna
RM: Javier Cabrera
ST: Jamie Maclaren
Predicted match result
It will be a tough game for both sides, and I feel like both teams would most likely settle on a draw. I do feel like there could be a late equaliser, but I’m going to say a draw for this one.