Melbourne City will travel interstate for the first time in nearly a month as the team prepares to face Brisbane Roar in its hunt for another vital three points.
The team was held to a 1-1 draw in last weekend's Melbourne Derby where, after falling behind early, Curtis Good netted the vital equaliser just before half-time, but his side failed to make the most of a fatiguing Victory side who have been extremely leaky in second halves this season.
Our upcoming opposition, the Brisbane Roar, may be 11th, but Warren Moon's side is starting to find some form following consecutive wins over Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory recently.
With every game looming so crucial for the City boys right now, here are the major storylines heading into the clash:
Getting screwed over by international windows yet again
In an exact repeat of the circumstances we faced heading into our second 1-0 loss against Western United, City will again be without Mathew Leckie, Jamie Maclaren, Connor Metcalfe, and Marco Tilio due to the quartet's selection to the latest Socceroos squad.
With three of those names on our last teamsheet, Patrick Kisnorbo will need to find replacements in central midfield, left wing and striker, roles that were handed to Taras Gomulka, Jordan Bos and Stefan Colakovski respectively for that ill-fated United clash (Andrew Nabbout was also out for that one, replaced by Scott Galloway, whilst Good was still recovering from COVID, so at least we're not going to be THAT depleted this time around).
The good news is that Kisnorbo has even more options to select from this time around. Manuel Pucciarelli could be a great fi- HA, we're joking, he's only allowed to feature when fans begin to forget he exists just so that we're reminded that the club actually signed him.
No, we're talking about Tsubasa Endoh, who seems to have endeared himself to PK far more than our one-time Italian FFA Cup assist-hero.
The Japanese Football Academy product is a versatile individual who provides options for Kisnorbo as he combats our mass absences; Endoh could play in his preferred wide right position, allowing Nabbout to shift centrally, or, more likely, one of he or Berenguer will play as an advanced midfielder with the other in an 'eight' role.
Decisions, decisions... just none that involve Pucc.
Seven from seven, anyone?
Let's be honest, at this stage of the season, with just seven games left for us to establish a lead at the top of the table, our goal pretty much has to be collecting the maximum 21 points available - a near-impossible task, we know, but we need to strive for that high bar if we're going to be able to pull off our title defence.
Whilst it probably wouldn't take that level of perfection mathematically - Western United are currently projected to finish on 50 points (16 more than we currently have) if they were to maintain their current points-per-game ratio - the point here is that the City boys need to head into every single match absolutely desperate to collect all three points.
We've dropped points twice in the last two weeks, but we're starting to reach the point of the season where our next set dropped could be the damning one.
One eye elsewhere
On that note, yes, you're totally justified in having Brisbane vs City on one screen and Victory vs Western on the other; that clash could be HUGE for our title prospects.
Our crosstown rivals in navy blue have won both of the previous meetings between the teams this season and appear to be United's bogey side at present. Whilst a Victory win isn't totally without its consequences (you'll have to deal with their fans not shutting the Vuck up about it, for a start) given their several games in hand, it's certainly the lesser of the two evils.
Score prediction: Brisbane 0-2 City