Talking points preview: City vs Brisbane
This Sunday afternoon Melbourne City will be facing up against the Brisbane Roar as we look to bounce back from the disappointing loss suffered last Friday against the Reds.
With only eight matches remaining in the home and away season, every point is worth its weight in gold as we inch ever closer to an unprecedented Premiership three-peat.
As City has taken just three points from its last available nine, it may be suggested that the door is the slightest bit ajar for those around us. A win on Sunday is integral to send a message to the chasing pack that that door is indeed very much still slammed shut.
Here are three things to look forward to ahead of Sunday’s fixture:
There’s no place like home
A quick glance at Melbourne City’s home record this season is more than enough to leave us feeling optimistic heading into Sunday.
City has played eight games at home so far this season, winning six, drawing two and losing zero. Not too shabby indeed.
City has really been able to dominate at home so far this season, and there should be no reason why we shouldn’t aim to do the same on Sunday.
Whilst Brisbane enjoyed quite a competitive start to the season, it appears that the team has been unable to maintain that, winning just one of its last nine games. Despite the City defence being shaky at best of late, Brisbane is also yet to score against us in the two previous meetings so far this season, so that also works in our favour.
Whilst meaning no disrespect to Brisbane, City has the sheer squad strength to really dictate this game and play it on our terms, and if that is its capability, then it should also be our expectation.
Forget about last week
Let’s be honest, the mood after the Adelaide game feels a little bit off, so I want to lighten things up a bit here.
Conceding four isn’t nice, we accept that, but in this instance, I think we have to cut ourselves a little bit of slack.
Overall, the game plan against the Reds wasn’t too bad. Starting Nuno at right back turned a few heads but was quickly justified as it appeared we turned into a back three in possession with Bos pushing up alongside Nabbout and overlapping on the left side. This created a lot of good looks, and we were rewarded with Nabbout scoring a nice goal. We also created a couple more great chances that should’ve been scored.
Nuno then went down, and we could no longer play the back three as it appeared we had planned, then Adelaide scored late in the half and after working really hard we went into the sheds 1-1 when on another day it could’ve been 3-0 us.
I understand football isn’t about 'ifs', but it's important in this context because I don’t think it's fair to just say we conceded four and we played badly. If we go in 3-0 up at half-time, we can pretty much shut up shop in the second half and see out the game. Instead, we went in having to come out and play a second half with a different game plan. Due to the work rate in the first half, we grew tired as the game went on, and as Adelaide so often do, they brought on fresh, fast legs and we just couldn’t keep up.
You have to ride your luck in football sometimes, but you also sometimes have to accept when things don’t go your way. Sometimes the ball just won't go in the net no matter how hard you try, and sometimes players go down as Reis did and it changes the entire complexion of the game.
So, we accept the loss, we cop it on the chin, and we move on.
It by no means should influence the fans' and group's confidence heading into Sunday, because we were more than in the contest; the main lesson, really, is that we need to take our chances. Too many times this season we’ve let them go begging and putting games beyond doubt sooner should be a priority.
A terrific opportunity to do that presents itself on Sunday.
Plug the holes
As previously mentioned, City needs to start finishing its chances, and a big reason that point is emphasised is that we are pretty often getting made to pay for it.
We’ve now conceded a whopping 15 goals in our previous six games and kept zero clean sheets in that time. We all accept that under Rado we’ll be conceding a little more as it's just part and parcel of his play style, but 15 in six simply isn’t good enough.
Whilst we are still in prime position for first spot, as we edge closer to Finals (for any fans out there who still care about them) we need to be looking not only at winning games, but how we’re winning them.
Lately teams have felt that they’re a really good chance at scoring, and it's because they have been. I think having the leaky defence welcomes teams to really attack us on the front foot. They know we can be quite wasteful at times and that it might be worth inviting that pressure into their final third in the hope we miss some chances and then are left vulnerable on the counter, where we have proven at times that we're capable of conceding three or four goals.
This presents a much more likely opportunity for the opposition to take points from us than just trying to defend their box hard for 90 minutes and inevitably concede one or two goals. It’s essentially how Victory and Adelaide beat us. I’d argue we should’ve won both those games, but because of said reason, we didn’t.
We have more than enough firepower, so I hope to see, starting from this weekend, a little more focus on keeping the ball out of our own net. Again, Brisbane is a great place to start that assignment.
Sunday’s match looms as quite an enticing match-up as City looks to really solidify not only our position on top of the table, but our overall play style as the season works towards its conclusion.
We’ve been near flawless at home this season, and with a lot to learn from last week, I’m expecting a strong performance.
Score prediction: City 2-0 Brisbane