A cracking game on Friday will see two potential Grand Finalists do battle to kick start Round 21.
In their first match-up since the FFA Cup Final back in November, Melbourne City and Sydney FC will lock horns in a game that has plenty at stake.
City are desperate to secure a top two spot and trail Victory by nine points so a win here will definitely help their cause. They finally showed some of their best form last week in hammering the Phoenix 5-1 so will have some confidence going into this.
Sydney FC on the other hand will be feeling something foreign to them this season – a loss – after going down 1-0 in the Sydney Derby which was their first defeat for the term.
HOME GROUND ADVANTAGE
City will fancy themselves against the Sky Blues because they are just one of two teams to have knocked them off, with Western Sydney being the other.
Their win in the FFA Cup Final also saw them hold Sydney scoreless which is something they’ve managed to do twice in their past three encounters.
Having played each other once since then, City were leading 1-0 until a late Bobo penalty salvaged a point for Graham Arnold’s side.
City has shown off some of their best form when playing at AAMI Park (who could forget their effort against Melbourne Victory earlier in the season, right?), which has proven to be a bit of a bogey ground for the visitors. Sydney has earned just one win in their past four visits to the ground.
HOW WILL THEY RESPOND?
Sydney’s historic 19-game unbeaten run to start the 2016/17 A-league season has come to an end but the big question will be how they respond.
Teams that usually go on long, unbeaten runs tend to drop at least a handful of games once the first loss comes around. That isn’t just confined to soccer with various examples across all sporting codes.
When Brisbane Roar went on their Australian record run of 36 games unbeaten, they dropped five straight soon after. Will the same happen to Sydney FC?
The only reference point we have is what Sydney did after losing the FFA Cup late last year. Four days later they handled Newcastle in the Hunter 2-0 before a 1-1 draw with City and impressive 4-1 and 4-0 victories on the road against Adelaide and Perth.
That suggests that this current squad of players doesn’t like losing so expect a big ‘bounce back’ from them going into Friday night’s contest.
Melbourne City has now gone six games without losing to Sydney FC.
In three of their past six encounters they’ve managed to keep clean sheets against the current league leaders with Bobo, Milos Ninkovic (two) and Filip Holosko the only ones managing to get past City’s defence during this span.
Wow, this is a game that is likely to go either way.
City thrashed a disappointing Wellington last week but that was just their third win since beating Sydney in the FFA Cup Final. Wellington’s recent form, however, has been terrible so a big question mark has to be raised on the quality of the win.
Despite that, Melbourne City showed they aren’t just a one-trick pony with their talisman Bruno Fornaroli only contributing to one of those goals with the other four coming from Nicolas Colazo, Neil Kilkenny, Anthony Caceres and an own goal from Ryan Lowry.
That will put the Sydney defence on notice that the threat won’t just come from Fornaroli (13 goals) and Timmy Cahill who has seven for the term. Between them they have 20 of the team’s 35 goals for the season.
Sydney’s defence, however, has been freakish this term and they’ve only conceded 10 goals in 20 games at a ridiculous 0.5 goals per game!
Could the issue for Sydney come from their attacking stocks? In their past six games they’ve been held scoreless three times and when you see the recent history of the sides, which shows just six goals in total from the past three games, then maybe playing the Unders in Total Goals Over/Under could be the way to go.
Ultimately this game is going to come down to defence because both sides have brilliant attack, so it’s how those players at the back handle the pressure that will determine where the points are going. Consider this as a final though – City hasn’t kept a clean sheet in their past six games and only have two for their entire A-league campaign!
THE TIP: SYDNEY FC
TOTAL GOALS OVER/UNDER 2.5: UNDER 2.5
1st GOALSCORER: MILOS NINKOVIC – he is arguably the most influential player for Sydney FC and has had the most success against City’s defence in recent times