Talking points preview: City vs Newcastle
After a three-week period away that has felt like forever, your Melbourne City will be returning home to AAMI Park later this afternoon.
The double-header will be kicking off a bumper month that will see us play four games at home on our path to a historic three-peat Premiership, with the livewire Newcastle Jets representing the next obstacle standing in our way.
A trio of players will be riding high after appearing for the national team, as we look for that killer touch in front of goal against an unpredictable opponent.
Here are your talking points for the game:
A certain crop of City lads certainly won't be feeling rusty after the international break. After pulling on the green and gold against Ecuador, Marco Tilio and Jordy Bos are certain to be benefitting from a confidence boost from their short cameos on Tuesday night off the bench - especially as it was the latter's debut for Australia.
Aiden O'Neill, however, was much more involved, playing the full 90 minutes of Friday's match and coming on just after half-time on Tuesday in Melbourne. Our boy Aiden has already been in career-best form this season for his club, and he was one of the most impressive of the crop of fresh faces that featured during the friendlies.
The Socceroos' midfield is notoriously stacked with talent, but the former Burnley player showed his trademark composure while on the ball and doggedness while off of it. We're all familiar with his qualities, and they're sure to make him a regular at the base of the Aussie midfield.
No doubt our plethora of CityRoos will also be inspiring our other young players to step up their game as our club strengthens its position as the clear pathway to representing our country.
By The Length Of A Pinkie Toe
Jamie Maclaren will have benefitted from the international break as well.
While our talisman striker was absent from the Socceroos squad, the time off will hopefully have given his broken little toe some time off the field to recover. It was recently revealed that the No. 9 had been playing with injections to deal with the injury for some time, with the news fuelling speculation amongst fans this could be what has led to Jamie's current slump - at least by his standards anyway.
Just as we were all starting to embrace Rado-ball, we've hit a bit of a bumpy patch of results characterised by the inability to convert a high amount of possession and shots into actual goals.
Just before the international break we saw Maclaren miss another penalty for the season, so hopefully a week off was just the thing he needed to recover physically and rediscover his mojo because our current high-risk brand of football demands that we take every scoring opportunity presented to us.
Hapless or Box Office?
Combine the above with the form of the Newcastle Jets and we have an explosive match-up on our hands.
The Novocastrians have taken a step back from the entertainers they were last season, as some of their more creative players were replaced by more typical A-League types with pace and directness. That said, they haven't lost their unpredictability and inconsistency as their promising manager Arthur Papas still manages to pull a rabbit out of a hat every other week.
There hasn't been a game between us with less than three goals for over two years, and that's unlikely to change this week with our growing injury list, and the combination of our high average goals per match (2.35) vs the Jets' high goals conceded per match stat (1.67, third-highest in the league). Not to mention, they have only kept three clean sheets all season.
No game result is certain in the A-League - it's one of the reasons we love our league - but it's certainly going to be an adrenaline-pumping goal-fest later today and up against a middling Newcastle outfit, Vidosic and the boys better make sure we come out on top.
If they don't succeed, the Premiership race is really going to come down to the wire; it's make-or-break time now.
Score prediction: City 4 -1 Newcastle