Melbourne City and Sydney FC will do battle for the first time since the 2021 A-League Grand Final when the teams meet at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium later tonight.
The City boys were fortunate to come away from their last fixture with all three points, defeating the Central Coast Mariners 3-2 thanks to goals from Jamie Maclaren, Florin Berenguer and Marco Tilio.
Sydney FC, on the other hand, joined the growing list of teams to suffer a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Western United, and will be keen to bounce back as they continue their (at this point) annual title pursuit.
Connor Metcalfe will return for the City boys following a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation, whilst Scott Jamieson is a chance to return from injury.
Here are the biggest talking points heading into the clash:
Making Tuesday night's fortune count
If the reverse of what played out in Tuesday night's match against the Mariners happened to us, we'd be livid. The three-point result was highway robbery, and ensuing official statements to confirm the refereeing errors only went to prove that.
However, that win could prove significant for City, especially in the event of a third-consecutive victory tonight against Sydney, as the A-League Men's competition is crying out for a team to go on a dominant, title-deciding winning run as we achieved last season.
Western United may occupy top spot, but they've hardly convinced anyone that they're the real deal. It's now up to us to capitalise on Tuesday's good fortune and turn this current two-game winning streak into a sustained run of maximum points that will set us up to pounce on the current league leaders' inevitable slip-up.
Five into four
Whilst Jamie Maclaren's 10 goals and Florin Berenguer's stranglehold on the Talking City Fan's Player of the Year votes would suggest otherwise, an interesting quirk of City's season thus far has been the lack of a single dominant player.
Andrew Nabbout was the early-season bolter, but we've more recently seen a rotation of dominant single-game performances from Berenguer, Maclaren, Mathew Leckie and Marco Tilio.
(Purely for the sake of visual comparison, here are their goal and assists stats, as per FBRef:)
The issue, however, is that five players don't go into four starting positions, as is the dilemma on Patrick Kisnorbo's plate if he sees the 'O'Neill and Metcalfe + one' midfield combination as a non-negotiable.
The quintet's youngest member, Tilio, has proven that he is well and truly of starting quality and that he's ready to take the league by storm. Berenguer and Maclaren, as alluded to earlier, are simply undroppable, so one would think that Tilio's inclusion would come at the expense of Nabbout or Leckie.
Many will have their own differing opinions on this, so the furthest we'll go is mention that Tilio's natural position in the front three is on the left, providing a point of difference as a left-sided left-footer compared with Leckie's left-sided right-foot which has been a point of much debate this season.
Is it the Endoh our long wait to see our latest signing in action?
A short one to finish off; fans may finally be about to see City's new Japanese signing in action later tonight.
Tsubasa Endoh didn't travel to New South Wales for the squad's six-point road trip just after he signed and spent our three-game home run in the stands after that, but Kisnorbo confirmed in a recent presser that the midfielder would be available for selection against Sydney.
Just because he has a chance at being in the squad doesn't mean he will be, nor does it mean he'll feature at all, but, much like we've seen from Manuel Pucciarelli, Endoh's likely long acclimatisation process to the City style of play has to begin at some stage; we'll soon need him ready for the latter stages of the A-League season and the Asian Champions League.