Talking points preview: City vs Western Sydney
And just like that the final round is upon us, and the sun is setting on yet another extremely successful season for Melbourne City.
Our final match for the regular season will see us host the Western Sydney Wanderers, with both sides offering the potential to play some mouth-watering football when at their best. It promises to be an exciting affair.
Here are three things to look out for ahead of Friday night's match:
Goals, goals, goals
Both City and the Wanderers head into this match with their attacking outlets absolutely firing, which for us means entertainment.
Each side has found the back of the net 10 times in their last four matches, as well as possessing arguably the two hottest forwards in the competition right now.
Obviously, we have the likes of Leckie, Nabbout and Tilio, but for us, all eyes will be on the league's king of the hill and newly crowned all-time leading scorer Jamie Maclaren.
However, the Wanderers are harbouring Brandon Borello in their ranks. The Western Sydney native is currently in career-best form having claimed six goal involvements from his last three games and 17 in total for the season, so fans can expect top-notch quality at either end of the pitch this Friday.
Despite both teams firing on all cylinders as of late, it’s also the league's highest scorers in City against the league's best defence in Western Sydney, who have only conceded 24 goals this season, so our front three will certainly have to be on their toes.
Football can be unpredictable, but if numbers and recent formlines are anything to go off, this one should be a belter.
Not a dead rubber
City has already quailed for the champions league, wrapped up the plate, and achieved its highest points tally ever in a season, so there is certainly a sense of ease amongst the fans heading into this one.
However, it’s naïve to assume that feeling has seeped into the playing group.
City putting Wherever United to the sword last week proved that, and the standards and expectations of the squad are always at their very highest, hence the key to our consistent success and dominance over the last three seasons.
As for the Wanderers, they’re in a battle against the Mariners and Adelaide to claim the final spot on offer for continental football next season, and funnily enough, that’s only on offer to them thanks to City’s success.
Australia has three allocations for Asia’s competitions: one in the Asian Champions League and two in the AFC Cup.
Two of those are already occupied; the Asian Champions League spot is ours, which was awarded for accruing the most points across the league these past two seasons, and the first AFC Cup spot was awarded to Macarthur for winning the Australia Cup.
Initially, the second spot in the AFC Cup was to be awarded to this season's premiers, however as we are unable to play in both competitions, that allocation will now be awarded to second place in this season's standings.
To make it simple, think of the Asian Champions League as the UEFA Champions League, and the AFC Cup as the Europa League, hence our inability to play in both tournaments.
With only one point separating the Reds, Mariners and Wanderers, we can expect them to be raring to go on Friday night.
As we’ll be lifting the plate on Friday, we certainly don’t want that to be dampened by a loss, so both sides still have plenty to play for going into this one.
It is without doubt that the commencement of the Finals series is going to see the rebirth of debating, controversy, and many mixed emotions.
Some fans will be boycotting the finals altogether, some may be watching from home, and some may be choosing to attend any final City feature in.
For many (myself included) this will be the last match they attend this season.
The support for City has not and will not waver, but ultimately any support of the finals increases the likelihood that the decision remains the same for the foreseeable future, and fans are choosing to speak with their actions.
Because of this reason, Friday presents itself as the perfect opportunity before the inevitable division across the league begins again; as a collective fanbase, we can give the boys what they deserve in a hell of a send-off.
The squad will be awarded their third-straight Premiers Plate after the match, which to many (again including myself) is by far the most prestigious and toughest trophy on offer.
Regardless of what the result is on Friday or what’s to come over the next few weeks, it’s a chance to celebrate another season where we had the pleasure of watching the football our City boys put on show week in and week out.
No matter what side of the fence you sit on, the only thing that matters on Friday is celebrating and supporting the club we love so dearly.
For that reason, I implore as many people as possible to get to AAMI on Friday to show the gratitude the squad so richly deserves.
All signs are pointing to this one being nothing short of just a really fun and enjoyable evening. Because of that, where else would rather be than AAMI Park for Friday night football to celebrate the most dominant squad in A-League Men’s history?
Really, there are not many places better.
Score prediction: City 4-2 Wanderers