Updated: Dec 5, 2021
Melbourne City are set to get their 2021/22 A-League Women's season underway later tonight when the team takes on Canberra United away from home.
The team were victorious in their pre-season friendly against last season's Champions, Melbourne Victory, winning 2-0 thanks to goals from Kaitlyn Torpey and Holly McNamara.
Aside from young goalkeeper Sally James' unfortunate long-term injury sustained in pre-season, City come into the season opener with a clean bill of health and will be eager to make a strong start to the new campaign with a win.
Here are three of the biggest talking points heading into the fixture:
Who's in Rado's best XI?
Beyond Emma Checker, Rebekah Stott and Hannah Wilkinson, it could be argued that literally every other position on the pitch is up for grabs as Rado Vidosic names his first starting lineup of the season.
Arguably the headline selection dilemma is how the City manager intends to fit nine starting-quality defenders into five starting defensive positions. Who fills out that likely three-player defensive unit alongside Stott and Checker? 17-year-old Naomi Chinnama started there for the last five fixtures of 2020/21 and was our tip to hold her spot in the new season. The competition is stiff though, with Tori Tumeth, Marisa van der Meer and Winonah Heatley all capable of playing centrally whilst also all simultaneously competing for starting wing-back spots against Chelsea Blissett, TJ Vlajnic and Kaitlyn Torpey.
Of equal interest is who Vidosic names in a likely front two alongside New Zealand international Hannah Wilkinson (more on her in a bit), with 18-year-old Holly McNamara our only other recognised striker. McNamara started in City's pre-season friendly win over Melbourne Victory and apparently performed well, netting the second goal of the game following Torpey's opener. Whether Vidosic elects to name the youngster in his starting lineup or shoehorns an advanced midfielder or converted winger into the role - or switches formation entirely - remains to be seen.
All eyes on Hannah Wilkinson
She was a prominent feature throughout our season preview, but the veteran Football Fern's importance to City's prospects in 2021/22 can't be understated.
Without a recognised striker (other than Harriet Withers, who bewilderingly spent the majority of her time on the bench or wing) in 2020/21, City lacked central options in the final third and subsequently struggled for goals, scoring only 11 for the season.
Whilst Wilkinson has forged a respectable career across stints in some major European footballing nations, the Kiwi has never been an especially prolific goalscorer aside from a productive spell in Portugal, and will be required to have a career-best season if City are to return to Finals.
A perfect fixture for benchmarking
Following a disappointing 2020/21 campaign, City's A-League Women's squad has again been rebuilt and there looms no better opportunity to see where we're at than our season opener away to Canberra United.
The team from Australia's capital performed well last season, securing a top-four finish and subsequent Finals berth, going down to Premiers Sydney FC in the Semis.
With the evergreen Michelle Heyman leading the line, Canberra club legend Ashleigh Sykes coming out of retirement and the dynamic Grace Maher in midfield, United represent tough opening round opposition, but the result of the match will give City fans insight into their team's prospects for the new season.