This Saturday night is a truly season-defining game, a chance for us to see where we’re at, a must-win game against a strong opponent close to us on the table during a prime-time slot in front of a potentially decent crowd... all sounds a bit too familiar, doesn’t it?
After comfortably dispatching the lowly Jets last weekend, Erick Mombaerts’ men will turn their attention to the high-flying Perth Glory, who come to AAMI Park on the back of a six-game winning streak. Perth have been phenomenal of late, with former City hero Bruno Fornaroli leading the charge having netted 6 times in these 6 winning games. Of course, in typical City fashion, this six-game winning streak began back in Round 9 - the last time Perth visited AAMI Park - where they systematically tore us apart in a depressing 3-0 drubbing.
Since that night City have won just three of their six games, whilst Perth have won all five of theirs.
This hot streak has seen Perth rise from dead-last on the table to 3rd place, only two points behind City, and with a game in-hand. This tight ladder positioning makes Saturday night’s game a real six-pointer. If Perth win, they move into second place. If we win, we keep our minute chances of catching first-placed Sydney FC alive.
An important game like this during a prime-time slot is a massive opportunity for our club to cement ourselves as Melbourne’s best club this season and show that we truly mean business ahead of the tail end of the season. Historically speaking, this means we are almost completely guaranteed to cock it up. Every time we face a strong side in a game dubbed a “season-definer” or a “chance to see where we’re really at”, we tend to crumble and get embarrassed. This inability to step up in the big games is one of the defining issues of our club’s mentality and reeks of a weak-mindset that has been following the club since the Heart days.
In saying that, this game really is enormous. It represents is an opportunity for us to turn this trend of failure around and to show that we genuinely do mean business this season. If we can make a statement and get the three points at home this Saturday night, it could be the catalyst for our first real push at the title. We looked decent against Newcastle without ever getting out of first gear. If we can find that next step-up this week then we have what it takes to make this a night to remember.
I’m predicting a fairly unchanged lineup for this game. With Glover still on Olyroos duty, Dean Bouzanis keeps his spot and will hope to build on his best and most-confident performance of the season last week. City have brought in extra defensive cover for this one, with Scott Galloway returning to the side, and injury replacement centre-back Jack Hendry (signed this week on loan from Celtic) brought into the squad. It’s unlikely that either of these two will force their way into the starting 11, however we would expect both of them to appear on the bench.
In midfield the only real foreseeable change is Rostyn Griffiths coming in for Florin Berenguer who didn’t look at his best against the Jets.
Up front, Craig Noone and Jamie Maclaren should both start after each scoring a goal last week, whilst I believe Lachie Wales will keep his spot in the eleven for at least another week whilst new import Markel Susaeta continues to work up his match fitness and adapt to the side's tactics.
The key issue in this game will be whether our at-times shaky defence can hold out the attacking force of Perth Glory that includes Bruno Fornaroli, Diego Castro, Joel Chianese and Chris Ikonimidis.
Our attack looks strong with Craig Noone and Adrian Luna hitting some good form and Jamie Maclaren continuing his massive goal-scoring season, whilst the brief cameo of Spanish star Markel Susaeta on debut impressed highly. If Susaeta can get a longer opportunity on the pitch this week I expect him to really cause some headaches for the Perth defence.
This club has found a way to miss a lot of brilliant big opportunities in games like this in the past. Whether or not Erick Mombaerts and Melbourne City are serious about silverware this season depends on breaking this historical hoodoo.
Score prediction: Melbourne City 3-2 Perth Glory.