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Talking City's Talking Points: Round 2 Preview

City's senior sides will be looking to build on their successful starts to the season in their upcoming clashes against Adelaide and Canberra United this Sunday evening.

Photo: MJM Photography

On the men's side of things, Adelaide drew a blank in their opening round match against Western United, while City will be looking to build on their first win against Brisbane.

The women's team, meanwhile, will be getting underway against Canberra United after securing a well-earned point in their first match, also against Brisbane Roar. They withstood heavy pressure from Brisbane's forwards and midfield throughout the game, and while we weren't at our best, it was only Round 1. The important thing for the women's team is to be able to shake off that performance and strike back against Canberra - fresh from their 4-3 thriller against Adelaide - on Sunday.

The men's team will be without Adrian Luna, who was controversially sent off for a challenge in the 70th minute against Brisbane, as well as Andrew Nabbout, who as of the 31st of December has been ruled out for 6 weeks. This will leave us very short on the right-hand side, though our injury list doesn't seem to be any worse than that as Rostyn Griffiths has been confirmed fit by the club after suffering from cramp late in the game.

There was only one switch in the women's game, with Margot Robinne coming off for Harriet Withers, so barring any training-ground incidents the players unavailable should remain the same as on Tuesday: Sofia Sakalis, Chelsea Blissett and Alex Chidiac, who remains in quarantine after signing for us two days before the opening round clash.

Round 2 is an important match for both teams. For the men, it's a chance to stay near/at the top of the table and put early pressure on the other clubs. For the women, it's crucial in such a short season to avoid dropping points in consecutive games if we're going to again be challenging for the title and it will boost their confidence if they can manage a win on Sunday.

Here's what we're focusing on heading into another big matchday for our senior sides:

Revenge on the cards?

Hindmarsh Stadium hasn't been a happy hunting ground for City in recent times.

In 2019, we had two heartbreaking, though very different, losses to the Reds there; we lost in extra time in the first elimination final at the end of the 2018-19 season, while we just played incredibly poorly in a 4-0 defeat in the FFA Cup final in what was a real chance to win some silverware. More recently, there was also the 3-1 loss in February, 2020. We're yet to avenge our losses and that starts by winning on Sunday.

Photo: Aleksandar Kostadinoski / @thatfootballphotog

This is not to say that we need to win only to avenge our losses in 2019; the bigger gift would be the 3 points, but we can't allow them to become our bogey team. Adelaide finished 7th last year, yet they demolished us in the FFA Cup and we dropped points against them twice in the league. The mentality shift that started with Erick allowed us to stay in the games against teams like Sydney, but when a team that isn't on our level is able to dominate us the way they did last season, it's a problem - and one that can become a mental block heading into crucial matches. Winning will not only see us with six points out of six, but it will also put those demons to bed.

How will we accommodate the missing players?

Adelaide will go into Sunday's match with the same squad to pick from as on the opening day. City, on the other hand, will be without influential players Luna and Nabbout, who cut in from the wings and provided brilliant delivery towards the end of the first half against Brisbane in a match where we lagged behind for a lot of the game. We definitely lacked pace and you could argue that this was due to the conditions or the lack of match sharpness, but we expect a much cooler, less humid climate in Adelaide that will hopefully allow us to break out of the blocks early and apply pressure to United.

Photo: Melbourne City FC

We need to ensure that we don't fall behind early in the match, and not just in terms of goals. We were on the back foot for large parts of the first half and our best chances came from swift counterattacks provided by Luna and Nabbout.

With both players out, reliance on a counterattacking style won't get us anywhere. JMac was hardly sighted in the first half apart from a few headers of varying accuracy. The style that Mombaerts brought with attacking fullbacks occasionally in 2019-20 could be vital to relieving the absence of our wingers and breaking down the Adelaide defence.

W: What's the tactical focus for the match against Canberra?

We wrote last week that our women's team had an outstanding defence but that we were questioning who would be scoring the goals.

We kept another clean sheet against Brisbane, but the concern should be the 30 shots we conceded. We gave away too much space and time in our defensive areas and as a result there was a 14% possession differential in Brisbane's favour. Further to that, we were only able to get 6 shots - 1 on target - for the entire match.

The good thing is that Brisbane were only able to get 28% of their shots on target, so while their strikers were able to find space to take the shots there wasn't enough time for them to focus on placement.

Photo: Melbourne City FC

The dilemma for City is whether to focus on attacking transitions to help get the ball to our strikers or to maximise our defensive performance in order to close down the opposition and prevent them from getting shots away. Both strategies have their pros and cons but I feel that if we want to win the league again we need to prioritise scoring rather than not conceding. You can't concede if the ball's in the opposition half and, further to that, with a defensive mindset, one mistake could be the difference between keeping a clean sheet or conceding a goal - and then the floodgates open. If we play attacking football and keep Canberra United on the back foot then hopefully we won't have the same defensive pressure or struggle like we did against Brisbane in the opening match.

City's women's and men's sides will be kicking off within an hour of each other in their clashes against Canberra and Adelaide this Sunday, with W-League action kicking off at 4:05pm and the A-League tie starting at 6:05pm.

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