We’re set for a huge clash against familiar FFA Cup rivals Western Sydney Wanderers this Wednesday night in a fixture which could prove a telling measure of our preparation for the 2019/20 season.
The Wanderers are in ominous form in the Cup this year, knocking out reigning A-League Premiers Perth Glory in the Round of 32 before wiping the floor with Sydney United in the Round of 16 – an impressive 7-1 scoreline at the final whistle.
Our City boys have been convincing enough in the Cup so far, comfortably edging out Campbelltown and Marconi in our previous knockout fixtures, but recently suffered our first pre-season defeat at the hands of Western United.
Here’s three storylines we’re looking forward to ahead of our potentially season-defining knockout clash against the Wanderers:
“Not this mob again”
We’ve drawn a familiar foe in the Cup’s Quarter Finals, with this encounter between City and the Wanderers set to be the third in four years.
The clubs met at this stage of the competition for the first time in 2016. Of course, we went on to win the whole thing that year, so the Wanderers were but a stepping stone as City ran out 4-1 victors.
In 2018, however, we slumped to a disappointing defeat at home, with the Wanderers piling on two goals before half-time. Riley McGree pegged one back in the second half but it wasn’t enough to keep our Cup hopes alive.
Hopefully we'll have the superior head-to-head record in the Cup after Wednesday night...
City’s defensive uncertainty
To summarise quickly, we’ve played seven matches this pre-season and have conceded seven goals altogether, which really isn’t all that bad.
However, we’re yet to keep a clean sheet in the cup, and our most recent friendly against Western United saw us concede two absolute shockers.
Perhaps a little disappointingly, Richard Windbichler hasn’t featured all that much throughout the pre-season, and was absent entirely against United.
Signed as a replacement for the departed Schenkeveld, Windbichler came to City with a respectable pedigree and fans hoped he’d be able to fill the massive void left by the Dutchman.
It'll be interesting to see whether City can maintain some defensive solidity and come away with a clean sheet; be that with or without the big Austrian.
Do or Die
It’s a frustrating cliché, but this fixture really will determine what type of season we’re in for.
It’s all well and good to beat NPL opposition all pre-season, with a few ‘behind-closed-doors’ fixtures against A-League rivals thrown in, but unless we force positive results in the games that really matter – like this one, a Quarter-Final against quality opposition in good Cup form – then we might as well brace for another season of mediocrity, the idea of which City fans will hardly be willing to stand for.
More optimistically, success against the Wanderers leads to a very promising situation for our Cup hopes. The final four is set to consist of at least one NPL team, the Mariners (assuming they get past Hume City) and then one of either Adelaide United or Newcastle Jets, who finished 4th and 7th in the league last year.
We'll be careful not to count our chickens before they hatch, however...
Melbourne City will play host to Western Sydney Wanderers at AAMI Park on Wednesday, September 18, in the FFA Cup Quarter Finals. Kick-off is at 7:30pm.