Melbourne City head to Cheltenham on Friday to take on familiar pre-season opponents Bentleigh Greens in the side’s final friendly fixture leading into the 2020/21 A-League season.
The teams are set to face off for the third time in four seasons, with a double from Nick Fitzgerald sealing 2017/18’s 2-0 win and Craig Noone, Adrián Luna and Ramy Najjarine all getting on the scoresheet for last pre-season’s 3-0 victory.
Bentleigh Greens are renowned as one of the strongest clubs in Australia’s second-tier competitions, having won three of the past five NPL Victoria championships and boasting an FFA Cup record that sees them claim the title of the ‘FFA Cup’s most successful club below the A-League’ – with two Semi-Final appearances and previous eliminations at the Quarter-Final and Round of 16 stages, we’d not be too keen to contest that claim either.
On the other hand, there’s never been a better time to play Bentleigh than in what will be their first friendly of their own 2021 pre-season. Compounding that rustiness will be the fact that their participation in the 2020 NPL Victoria season only lasted five games before the competiton was abandoned due to the coronavirus outbreak – at that stage, the Greens were 10th out of 14 with only five points on the board.
Brief Talking Points:
No Delbo, no Windy, no worries?
With Harrison Delbridge yet to re-sign with City amidst reported offers from teams in the US and South Korea, and in addition to the off-season departure of Austrian Richard Windbichler, City look pretty short in regards to central defensive options. Rostyn Griffiths and Curtis Good appear to be nailed-on starters but there’s little depth beyond that; 18-year-old Kerrin Stokes is a specialist centre-back whilst Jordan Bos, also 18, is listed as a defender on the club’s website.
Whilst we’ve heard rumours of an incoming European defender (and City does have one VISA spot left), it’ll be interesting to see how the defensive unit fares given we’re yet to keep a clean sheet this pre-season.
Fans’ first look at…
If ever there’s been an unknown quantity (who also happens to come with a fair level of risk being an import and a one-season loanee), it’s the 20-year-old winger. Having spent hours researching him for a scout report-style article which you can read here, I can tell you there’s very little sample size to be able to contend whether Tsubaki will be a hit or miss in the A-League. He didn’t feature in the friendly against Western United due to quarantine protocols so I for one will be keeping a VERY close eye on him if he sees minutes against the Greens.
Friday night will see two matches played at Bentleigh’s Kingston Heath Soccer Complex: a City extended squad against Bentleigh’s youth at 6:15pm and a senior clash at 8:15pm.
Tickets will be available at the gate for $10 but venue capacity will be subject to COVIDsafe numbers.
Even more importantly, of course, the Talking City team will be hosting a livestream with the support of Melbourne City for those who can’t attend, with the broadcast, which will also include pre-match, half-time and post-match coverage, available on the club’s Facebook and YouTube channels from 7:45pm.