There have been few segments of Australian football that really encompass the history and future - the old and the new - like the FFA Cup. The competition gives those clubs of yesteryear the opportunity to display their strengths, their passion, their playing style - to reach the heights of the past and bring their professional history into the modern era.
This particular Round of 32 matchup involves the best of both.
South Melbourne FC, widely known as the “Oceania Club of the Century”, is rich in history that paints a picture of what the national football landscape once was in Australia. Having been coached by footballing icon Ferenc Puskas and now-Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou, South Melbourne is certainly no small club.
Having three premierships and four championships in the NSL, South Melbourne FC may not yet be done with winning. However, current Australian league double winners Melbourne City FC will stand in their way if they are to make it past the first round of the FFA Cup's final stage.
With new signings and youngsters beaming from Olympic duty, the City boys will be ready to rumble against the ex-NSL side.
Thus, here are three points for Melbourne City fans to look forward to:
1. South Melbourne lack a true goal-scorer
Gone are the Milos Lujic days, where it was certain for their striker to hit double digits. Since then, the most goals a player donning the Blue and White has scored is 7 (Giuseppe Marafioti).
In the 2021 season (which was unfortunately cancelled after 18 matchdays ), Harry Sawyer and Marco Jankovic led the squad with 4 goals each. There are 9 other clubs in their league who boast more prolific goalscorers.
This bodes well for the City side, despite the unfortunate timing of the international callup of Mathew Leckie, Andrew Nabbout and Jamie Maclaren.
However, our Socceroos are comfortably replaced by a potent Championship winning attack of Stefan Colakovski, Marco Tilio and Nathaniel Atkinson. City fans should have no qualms with this arrangement, other than the further prolonging of seeing Leckie on the pitch.
2. Our squad is fit and raring to go
It's been a special few months for a select group of our City boys. Following a dream Socceroos debut (or return after a LONG time out), a heartbreakingly close fairytale run at the Olympics, and a Macedonia U21 call-up, our national team boys in Connor Metcalfe, Curtis Good, Marco Tilio, Nathaniel Atkinson, Thomas Glover, and Stefan Colakovski will be ready to showcase their skills and prepare for another season in the A-League.
On a night looking to be cool with showers and a near sold-out restricted capacity of 5,000, the first competitive meeting between South and City will be hard-fought, passionate, and certainly intense. This game was of course rescheduled due to lockdowns across Victoria, but this may have suited us in the end, as we were supposed to face off at the beginning of pre-season.
With a full pre-season, including three friendlies against Western United, now under their belt, our City boys have flipped the match fitness advantage South held at the initial announcement of the clash, and will look to make that count for something tomorrow night.
3. A solid sighter for the upcoming A-League season
This match is so many things, from a chance to pit the old against the new to just a fantastic night out for the Melbourne football scene in general. However, it is also a terrific opener in what promises to be a cracking season for City.
Fans are (and should be) excited for what lies ahead, as we have recruited well and retained the majority of last season's double-winning squad.
Come tomorrow night, we should hopefully get a first glimpse of our new Italian ‘CAM’, Manuel Pucciarelli. Personally, I am most excited for this, and I sincerely hope he gets the nod to start the match. To see how he links our trusted midfield and youthful forward line will be integral to the season ahead.
Furthermore, we should expect to see a refreshed and reinvigorated side who, despite winning the Championship just this last May, will be ready to fight hard for another shot at silverware. With all the buzz around the new training facilities and reshuffling of coaching staff, Patrick Kisnorbo's inspiring words in a recent interview will please fans hoping for another season of success. To quote the big man, “We’re the hunters”.
We will not underestimate the character of South Melbourne FC. We know what it takes to win this Cup, and our boys will be focused on doing it again.
On a final note, if you haven’t already, purchase your ticket. Or ask a mate for a spare. Get down there to Lakeside tomorrow night. It promises to be a belter.