The City boys are set to face a menacingly in-form Adelaide United in what will be a significant test for the squad this Tuesday, but a positive result will see us achieve our highest-ever finish in club history.
Melbourne City impressed all onlookers, loyal fans back home here in Victoria most of all, in its significant 2-0 win over Sydney FC last Saturday, with the result providing a massive confidence boost heading into the Finals series.
However, Adelaide United also recently faced the Sky Blues, securing a 1-1 draw on Thursday night that extended the Reds undefeated streak since their return to play – a hugely impressive feat given that they’ve played four of the five teams above them (with their upcoming City clash set to complete that set).
With Melbourne looking to lock up second place (and qualify for the Asian Champions League without the asterisk of Wellington being ineligible for the competition had they finished above us) and Adelaide in the hunt for a Finals berth, this Tuesday night’s fixture looks set to be one of the most enthralling clashes since the restart.
Focusing on our beloved City boys first and the team will be without its revered skipper Scott Jamieson who has returned to Melbourne for the birth of his first child. Whilst our captain will be sorely missed (though we’re entirely behind him as a fan base and give him our collective congratulations), the return of Rostyn Griffiths from his mandatory self-isolation period is a welcome boost to the squad’s depth.
Unfortunately for the midfielder-cum-defender, we can’t see him slotting straight back into the starting lineup, with the revitalised defensive trio of Delbridge, Good and Windbichler managing to keep a clean sheet against league-leading (in scoring and in points) Sydney FC.
Similarly, Josh Brillante and Adrián Luna performed well enough against the Sky Blues that relegation to the bench would be pretty unjust.
With Jamieson gone, one would expect Scott Galloway to be the man to replace our skipper as the left wing-back, with the veteran defender well-versed on either side of the pitch.
No other changes are expected (apologies to the Lachie Wales haters).
As aforementioned, Adelaide have arguably been the best team since the return to play, defeating Brisbane (4th) and Perth (5th) whilst securing draws against Championship contenders Wellington (3rd) and Sydney (1st).
Reds striker Kristian Opseth has three goals from those four fixtures, whilst Riley McGree has been the club’s most influential player this season and has continued to run the Reds’ offensive transitions since the return to play.
The Reds’ liability lies in their shoddy backline, however, with the team possessing the second-worst defensive record in the entire league, behind only the Central Coast Mariners.
They’ve conceded three or more goals on eight occasions this season.
Before wrapping up the preview, we regrettably have to reflect on our last encounter with the Reds, which culminated in a 3-1 defeat away from home, with all three Reds goals coming from set-piece situations. One would hope that with three towering central defenders on the pitch and a slightly improved showing at set-pieces against Sydney FC that we will be able to minimise that particular threat this time around.
Whilst much of the attention dedicated to this match will revolve around the guarantee of second-place and a home Semi-Final if we’re able to knock off the menacing Reds, much of that focus should also be given to the genuine Championship credentials of this team if that outcome comes to fruition; two massive, character-demonstrating wins within the space of 10 days.
We've been brilliant and stood strong in important matches and high-pressure moments several times this year - Western Sydney in R7 and Perth in R22 come to mind - only to disappoint fans the next time out.
So the question then is inevitable: are we actually for real this time? Because consecutive victories over Sydney FC and a rampaging Adelaide United should tell supporters that we're about to have the starring Finals role that we’ve long-awaited.