Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory are set to face off tomorrow in a Derby like no other – behind the closed doors of an empty, echoing AAMI Park.
The Victorian lockdown has ensured not only that the game cannot be played in front of fans, but also that this will be City’s first game in nearly two weeks, with its most recent result being a 3-0 loss to Brisbane Roar on May 25.
Melbourne Victory were able to squeeze in their game against Western United the day after the lockdown was announced, blowing their Victorian counterparts away 6-1 last Friday.
Our City Socceroos – Jamie Maclaren, Curtis Good and Connor Metcalfe – won’t be available for this one, a dilemma that we’re eager to see solved in tomorrow’s game. Andrew Nabbout and Nathaniel Atkinson remained sidelined by injury, whilst Rostyn Griffiths returns to the squad having recovered from his own.
Here are the major talking points heading into the final Derby of the season:
Whilst the ‘8-0’ joke predictions are inevitable, this talking point is really more about how the game will actually play out.
With a handful of our best players sidelined with injury or away on international duty, and a spirited Victory side fresh off a 6-1 drubbing of Western United, the chances of this being another humiliation of our crosstown rivals seems fairly unlikely.
If we don’t hit the ground running with the changes we make, there exists the very real possibility that the season Derby scoreline may read 2-1 by the end of the night. On the other hand, who’s to say we’re not capable of another dominant performance, even if it’s more like 2-0 or 3-0 this time around?
Filling the massive void up top
Jamie Maclaren’s absence is huge, but the void he leaves is made even larger by our lack of senior striker options to replace him.
Andrew Nabbout was expected to provide the firepower when our star man up top isn’t available, but his injury leaves us searching for a replacement who’ll be able to fill JMac’s very large (golden) boots.
Stefan Colakovski has previously mentioned that he’s been training as a striker, whilst Raphael Borges Rodrigues is a less-experienced option who can also play the role, though he’s mostly been used in midfield in the NPL.
It seems highly unlikely that the latter will be getting the nod to start as City’s #9, so we feel that the likely solution will either involve Colakovski operating centrally or Patrick Kisnorbo employing a false nine, an experiment which has previously had underwhelming results, to say the least.
The lowest-profile Derby ever
Sorry to finish on a negative, but it’s pretty tough to get excited about tomorrow’s Melbourne Derby when there is so very little riding on the outcome.
City have wrapped up the Premier’s Plate and Finals. We’ve also well and truly tipped the balance in our favour to become the dominant footballing force in Melbourne (/Victoria) over the course of the season, even if we were to succumb to a late-season Derby defeat.
There will be no fans, no terrace, no pre-game traditions, no reliving every moment of the night with your mates on the way home.
At present, it – along with the Newcastle fixture – just feels like a preamble to the Finals series, though we’ll admittedly need the momentum of two late-season wins to help us towards an inaugural Championship.