Talking points preview: Melbourne Derby Elimination Final
Kicking off what could be a historic day for Melbourne City club-wide, our ALW outfit will host a Melbourne Derby at Casey Fields from 3pm this afternoon.
The team capped off its regular season with an initially impressive performance against Canberra United, taking a 3-1 lead, only to collapse in familiar fashion late on, with the team from the nation's capital coming away with a point.
Elsewhere in Round 20, Melbourne Victory were very lucky to make the final four after conceding a last-minute equaliser to Wellington Phoenix in a contest that they would have been expected to comfortably win.
Ahead of today's do-or-die, knockout clash, here are its biggest talking points:
Redemption for the embarrassment of 2021/22
There's much more to play for in this Finals series than revenge, but it would certainly be sweet to knock Victory out of the running with a win today.
City fans will painfully recall our 2021/22 Finals series, in which we lead Sydney FC 2-0 in the Qualifying Final, only to totally capitulate and lose 4-2 in extra time. The very next week only compounded the humiliation felt, with City barely putting up a fight as Victory soul-crushingly dispatched us with ease. (From memory, this was also the game where Victory players went over to OSM - who were making their token singular appearance at a Women's match for the season - after the game and lead a 'You're s**t when you're red, you're s**t when you're blue' chant in the most sporting of fashions.)
Not only do the City girls owe themselves the redemption of making up for such a poor performance in a Final, but the Derby element to this fixture means that we'd also take pride in ensuring that Victory's season is ended early, without the chance to chase a Championship three-peat.
Hopefully the City squad shares some of the pain that is still leftover from that failure and uses it to propel us to a Semi Final.
We're in poor form... but so are they.
On the pitch, the biggest talking point for fans coming into this game is easily how poor our form has been in recent times.
The good news is, Victory are just as out-of-sorts.
Coming in today's clash, City has won just one of its past seven fixtures, defeating Newcastle Jets 4-0. Meanwhile, Victory has only won one of its past six, but that success came against us back in March, to the tune of 2-0.
Whilst we haven't beaten our crosstown rivals in two attempts this season, the team seems more than capable of doing so. In the earlier 1-1 this season, the teams were very well-matched and the scoreline seemed to reflect this, but this wasn't the case for the 2-0 loss, in which we nearly doubled Victory's shots but were denied repeatedly by an on-her-day Casey Dumont.
She mightn't have played in the March Derby, but (regardless of what that 2-0 loss suggests) Victory are also a tamer beast without Alex Chidiac, who departed in the final third of the season.
Ultimately, anything could happen today, and that's the focus of this preview's final talking point.
Which City will turn up to play?
I am an avid believer that this City outfit can beat any other Finals team on its day. The issue is, we could just as easily get embarrassed.
Without Alex Chidiac, and if Casey Dumont forgets to bring her goalkeeping superpowers that she magically seems to gain against us, an on-song City could be three goals up at half-time today - such is the seamlessness that our multi-faceted attacking unit can slice through opposition defences. We also occasionally tend to have days where everything just winds up in the back of the net, rewarding our good play.
Equally, a humiliating day at the office is just as possible. For all the games where everything we touch turns to gold, there are occasions where trying to beat the keeper feels like banging our heads against a wall - and we've seen some truly unbelievable (in the negative sense) performances in front of goal at times this season. Then, there's the defensive capitulations we've been seeing particularly in the last month, where even a brilliant first half of football can be undone by a calamitous second period.
Whilst there is genuine work to do on improving the defensive front, today's attacking performance feels like it could just come down to whether we're here to play or not.