We can thank our lucky stars that after having to witness Saturday's turgid game against the roaming retirement village known as Western United, we have a quick turnaround to help us move on. Mid-week A-League Men's action is back and it's set to be a wild game against the directionless Perth Glory, as our relentless attack meets Richard Garcia's shapeless team from the West.
Faith from the City faithful
While we'd all like to forget about that rare AAMI Park win for John Aloisi on the weekend, we can't escape the way it frames the upcoming game. While four points from three games is hardly the worst run football fans have had to endure, it's the mark of champions to expect only the best. For the first time in our team's short history we find ourselves defending titles, so we're right to aim high.
We've hardly set the league alight so far this season - at least not to the standard expected of our squad.
Looking at last season's similarly slow start, it seems this is all due to the high level of fitness demanded by our high-intensity play style. It simply takes a few games to reach full match fitness. The way our boys in blue faded out of the first two matches is likely the result of the lack of pre-season friendlies due to COVID.
There's no need to despair though, it's still early days in the 2021/22 season, and we'd all rather work the kinks in the system out now than at the pointy end of things. Our packed schedule has exacerbated this issue - Wednesday night's game will be the fourth in just 11 days - but the Glory have an even shorter turnaround this week, having played Sunday night during their temporary stay in Melbourne, so there'll be no excuses come Wednesday night. It's only a matter of time until we hit our top gear.
Ringing in the changes
So, all that said, will Paddy shake up the team, or is more consistency what's required? Our selection headaches are more dramatic than Andrew Nabbout in front of Adelaide home fans, but the busy schedule could be a blessing in disguise, as PK could be forced to swap out tired legs. The answer to our problems could very well appear.
This answer might materialise in the form of Nathaniel Atkinson. The young gun has been kept out of the starting right-back position by Scott Galloway, who is in the middle of a great run of form. Nate has been restricted to late cameos on the right wing, but his link-up and overlaps with Andrew Nabbout last season produced some of our most threatening attacks.
It's hard to argue he deserves to start ahead of Galloway, but Wednesday night could be Atkinson's opportunity to stake his claim - after the grand final last season we know he can stand up to the big moments - so with something to prove there's no doubt he'd rise to the occasion.
The biggest selection headache, however, lies in our midfield. While blame can't really be laid individually at the feet of any of our midfielders, we struggled in the creativity department on the weekend and are in desperate need of some spark. Florin is clearly feeling the flame at his feet this season, with the pressure of new import Manuel Pucciarelli pushing the Frenchman to new levels. Pucciarelli has been slowly building his fitness after his late arrival in the off-season, but with a starting debut in the FFA cup against Hume City under his belt the Italian could prove the spark we need as an attacking midfielder.
So far, the gaffer has persisted with the same starting XI over the opening three rounds, but that could change come Wednesday night.
The big name signing of the off-season in the flesh
It's the name on everyone's lips (of course I had to finish with this, we all knew it was coming); bringing his sexy, silky attacking skills is one of the best to grace the A-League Men's competition in recent memory. That's right, on Wednesday night we get to see Mathew Leckie! Ok, so maybe our own star forward hasn't quite hit the ground running but surely he's due for a blinder.
Apparently, there's another world-class player in town by the name of Daniel Sturridge, though you wouldn't know it if you'd only been looking at the Glory's teamsheets - so far the former Premier League star has amassed a measly eight minutes this season, in what was largely an obligatory showing for the Perth home fans. It's the last of three games in Melbourne for the West Australian outfit, and it's not overly optimistic to hope for a cameo from one of the biggest signings in Australian football history. We'd all hate for him to miss the opportunity to be humbled by Curtis Good.
Regardless of our lineup conundrums, and whether or not Sturridge appears, it's going to be a relief to play against a team who won't be parking the bus à la Western United. Perth's squad is very top heavy, and with Garcia at the helm for his second season he still seems without much of a game plan - so no matter the result we're in for a chaotic night of football between two very aggressive teams that have yet to settle this season. It's shaping up to be just the kind of refreshing game we City fans need.