Christmas (Derby) in March: A talking points preview
In what is a club and league first, the suspended Christmas Derby will be resumed from the 22nd minute tonight as a result of the initial fixture being abandoned nearly four months ago.
How this match should be resolved has been discussed at length over the last few months, with many thinking the disappointing, but never surprising actions of a select cohort of Victory members in the initial fixture should have seen the game forfeited in City’s favour. And whilst there is an extremely valid case, the reality is there are 69 minutes still to play, and those minutes are shaping up to be some of the most important for the entire season.
Here are three things to look out for ahead of the resumption of the annual ‘Christmas Derby’:
As it stands...
City currently is 1-0 ahead thanks to a wonderful team goal that saw some trademark slick passing that was subsequently dispatched into the top right-hand corner by fan favourite Aiden O’Neill.
The game will resume from the 21’st minute and the remaining time will be played out as per normal. Apart from that, we don’t really know much else.
I suppose the biggest questions will be around lineups on the night. Notably, there are quite a few players on both sides who started the initial fixture who won’t be available on Wednesday. Mat Leckie, Richard Van der Venne, Nani and Jake Brimmer are all currently injured and will force both managers to alter their original lineups.
Separately, the APL has confirmed that Scott Jamieson is free to play tonight as this is a continuation of a previous fixture, so he can’t serve a suspension he hadn’t received yet. The suspension will instead be served in our upcoming match against Wellington.
Whilst we have an idea of the new starting lineups that might be named, we'll have to wait until an hour before kickoff for confirmation.
Same game, different story
If we take a trip down back in time to December, the attitude going into this game was so vastly different than it is now for both sides.
Victory was nursing the wounds of a bang-average start to its campaign, whereas we were sitting pretty on top with only one loss to our name, whilst those behind us stumbled and faltered at pretty much every hurdle.
I wish we could go into Wednesday with the same relative sense of comfort as we had in December, but we can’t.
The reality is we really can’t afford to drop this match.
Adelaide is in astounding form, not having lost since early January, which sees an undefeated run stretch across 11 games. That run has seen what once was a double-digit gap at the top be cut down to just two points.
A win would see us sit five points clear on top with just four matches to play, shifting the pressure back onto the Reds.
A loss or a draw would see that gap sit at either two or three points dependant on the result, however, we would be winless in 3 matches, very much putting the pressure back on us with Adelaide breathing fire down our neck.
As for Victory, a couple of scalps in the last two weeks has resurrected their season, and they now sit just four points off sixth spot. A win would take them just one point away from a finals place, so no doubt they’ll be up for this.
This match has massive sway in the context of the seasons of either club, even though we’re playing for a third straight plate and their fighting to be mid-table.
Regardless of this, the point remains the same, neither club can afford to lose this match.
Remember the name
Max Caputo introduced himself to the City faithful in the best way possible against the Jets.
Whilst this may have been his first impression for many, those who keep an eye on the club at youth level will have been well aware that Caputo has maintained himself as one of the club’s brightest prospects for a few years now.
Whilst it's highly likely that Maclaren will be given the nod to start, and that’s fair enough, it’s also highly unlikely that Caputo’s goal will go unrewarded, so it's possible we'll see him be given another chance at some point tomorrow night.
If Sunday is anything to go by, Caputo clearly isn’t put off by a big occasion, and they don’t get much bigger than a Melbourne Derby.
City has been having issues in converting chances into goals as of late, and a lot of Victory’s defensive attention will go to the likes of Maclaren, Tilio and Nabbout, so the stage may just be set for a new kid on the block.
What better way to cement yourself a place in the squad than to score what may be one of the biggest goals in club history?
With the Premiers’ Plate and finals race both being blown open, and this match having a drastic impact on the way those races play out, this has the capacity to be one the most important Derbies in recent memory.
With so much uncertainty around this fixture, the one thing we can be sure of is both teams will leave it all on the line, however it's up to City to remind the league why we’ve run this league for the best part of three years.
Score prediction: City 2-0 Victory