City have a huge opportunity to qualify for their second-ever FFA Cup final if they can come away with the win against Brisbane Strikers when the two sides meet this Tuesday night.
The Strikers have made a captivating run to the Semis, their best-ever Cup performance, having pulled out an upset victory over Wellington Phoenix in the Round of 32, followed by narrow victories over Manly United and Moreland Zebras in the Round of 16 and Quarter-Finals respectively.
Our City boys overcame their first major challenge in the Cup with a crucial win over the Wanderers (who were admittedly undermanned) in a convincing 3-0 performance. Craig Noone was on fire in that clash, scoring two goals and generally dominating the play.
Whilst City managed to avoid drawing an A-League team in the Semis, there’ll be no excuse for half-hearted play, as anything less than a victory at this crucial stage of the competition would be a failure.
We’re looking at three subplots which will take place in tomorrow night’s clash:
The Pengelly Problem
We covered Andrew Pengelly’s incredible 41 goal domestic campaign in our opposition analysis already, but the striker demands a place in this preview, especially having proven he can score against A-League opposition when he netted against the Phoenix in the Round of 32.
With the 22-year-old renowned for his lethal finishing in the box – including his strike against the Phoenix – it’ll be crucial for our central pairing to coordinate their positioning and prevent Pengelly from finding space in the box, whilst his supply from the wings (particularly from Hiroki Omori) will need to be cut out by our fullbacks.
A final chance to impress for some
The majority of the Round 1 starting lineup can be pretty safely predicted at this point, but the final selections of the midfield combination and right-wing could prove quite the dilemma.
Javier Cabrera has been named on the right fairly often thus far, but this means that Adrián Luna either drops to the bench or takes up an attacking midfield position, where he brings more of an offensive threat than Florin Berenguer or Connor Metcalfe.
Metcalfe’s been the highlight of the preseason and has really pushed his case for a long-term starting spot, but can you really afford to drop Berenguer? Or do they both start, forcing one of Luna or Cabrera to drop to the bench?
And what about Lachie Wales and Rostyn Griffiths, who've proven capable of starting in their respective positions last season?
Six simply doesn't go into three.
A statement of intent
In our Quarter-Finals preview, we made reference to an underwhelming pool of teams that would contest the Semi-Finals if we were able to get past the Wanderers, but that fans couldn’t afford to count their chickens just yet.
That perspective can’t apply anymore.
We could wax lyrical about the Strikers and preview the clash as a tight contest, but it’s a conservative approach that we’re not willing to take.
You’d hate to be the A-League team that suffers an upset defeat to an NPL team in the Round of 32 or even the Round of 16, but those losses can at least be justified to some extent, in regards to A-League players having only just commenced preseason training.
That’s not an excuse at this stage of the competition. The Strikers have only just scraped by in all three of their Cup fixtures, two of which were against NPL opposition and the other was against the Phoenix… which speaks for itself given their Cup record.
Winning this game is non-negotiable.
Melbourne City take on Brisbane Strikers at Perry Park in the FFA Cup Semi-Finals. Kick off is at 7:30pm, Tuesday October 1.