The midweek football continues at AAMI Park this week as we line up against the Macarthur Bulls for the first time this season.
It's been a season that has rewarded those best able to adapt with the ever-changing schedules and packed match calendar and the new team from NSW has adapted well as it chases the top of the table in only their second season.
We're yet to lose to the Bulls in our three meetings so far in their existence, but after our recent shaky results we can't afford to take them lightly; dropping points simply isn't an option anymore if we want to catch the unfaltering Western United and claim the premiership two years in a row.
Here are the major talking points heading into it:
It's been a season of false starts; though the rain being the reason for the scrapped game against the Nix on Sunday was a refreshing change from the usual COVID-related postponements, the late nature of the fixture change (which only came after a delayed start was announced) was a point of frustration for fans and no doubt the team as well. However, it did provide some interesting insight as to some big lineup changes for Wednesday night's match.
Our fearless leader Patrick Kisnorbo has been reticent to make too many changes to our starting XI this season, leading some pundits to suggest that there is a strong hierarchy in place at the club that supersedes any strong performances non-starting regulars might have.
But of course, we also know that no matter who we play, we play our system. This is one of our strengths, but it can also be perceived as inflexibility. It would seem, however, that our manager has at least had his hand forced in two areas of the pitch.
Leckie seemed destined for Man of the Match status with an assist and a goal to his name before being sidelined with injury minutes before halftime against the Glory last Wednesday, and after scoring six goals in seven games the outcome of that match may well have been different if he had remained on the pitch. Tilio was set to replace him against Wellington on Sunday, and given the gaffer has stated they're eyeing a return in the derby for Leckie, it would seem the hottest youth product in the league is set to have another chance to impress with a start against Macarthur.
One forecast change that is a little less certain is the swapping of Florin Berenguer for Taras Gomulka. Florin is undoubtedly the best player in the comp this season and after starting so many games in a month where there was a match every three or four days, our Frenchman was slated for a well-earned rest on the bench on Sunday. But, with the game not going ahead on the weekend, the boys got their first seven-day break in a month, so will Paddy stick with his decision? Gomulka has already seen more minutes of late, and with Metcalfe heading off at season's end it seems likely we'll seek to blood him more and more.
The biggest change of all, however, is between the sticks.
The battle for No.1
Contrary to what's been said above regarding our manager's stubborn nature, the biggest change of all was to be an unforced one: the dropping of Tommy Glover for Matt Sutton.
It's been a heated point of discussion all season but if Sunday's misfire is anything to go by, it would appear Glover's performance against the Glory - during which it could be argued he was at fault (though not solely) for the two goals conceded - was the tipping point and he has now been dropped.
Tommy has undeniably not been at his best this season, and while we're all rooting for the young lad to come good, we have to address the amount of goals conceded so far this season, and some of the blame has rightly fallen at his feet, or should we say, gloves.
The goalkeeper position is our least contested on the field in what is otherwise a remarkably deep squad and, while Sutton is also young, this decision might be just the sort of competition Glover needs to rediscover the great heights we've seen him reach in prior seasons. Who knows, maybe Sutton is ready to stake his claim and show us what he's got; we're about to find out if he has what it takes to be our regular 'keeper.
It's a rare chance for the somewhat untested 22-year-old to lock in the number one spot, but one thing is for sure - we'll want to work out who our true number one is ASAP.
The return of Noone
While there may be a fresh face between the sticks on Wednesday night, a familiar one will be making a return to AAMI park for the first time in opposition colours.
This game against the Bulls was originally scheduled to take place in mid-January, meaning that our first match-up against them for the season is oddly taking place in March. This has also meant the delay of the reuniting with one of our club's best-ever wingers in Craig Noone.
We said goodbye to the Liverpudlian lad at the end of last season after he contributed a great amount to our success. No doubt a few teams were circling the dangerous forward towards the end of last season and, as he was approaching the age of 34, it's not surprising the club decided ready to part ways.
So, while there will be no ill-will towards the former crowd favourite, let's hope he doesn't punish his old side when he comes back to town.
Inching ever closer behind us, Macarthur has a game in hand and could draw within four points with a win, so we can't afford to treat this as a training match.
Score prediction: Melbourne City 2 - Macarthur FC 1