Talking points preview: The Melbourne Derby

After a hard-fought 1-0 win in Canberra to kick off the Liberty A-League season last weekend, our girls return to Melbourne this week as they prepare to take on the old enemy Melbourne Victory.


Victory, last season’s champions, kicked off their own campaign in devastating fashion, running out 5-1 winners against a disappointing Adelaide United side.


Victory are very clearly the team to beat again this season, but as we know, form means nothing heading into a derby.


Here are three talking points ahead of Sunday’s blockbuster:


Photo: Andrew Wiseman // @wisemansports

Where do we stand against the best?

For the longest time Melbourne City were untouchable in Australian women’s football. In just 6 seasons, City have won the Championship four times, an unbelievable return in any league in the world.


Last season, however, was not what anyone at City would have hoped for. Following the departure of many of our brightest talents to Europe and an inability to properly recruit due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the club had its worst ever finish, and to rub salt into the wound, Victory were crowned champions.


How much has changed in the off-season though? The club has recruited well, with the return of Rebekah Stott, the arrival of Hannah Wilkinson and an array of bright young talent, Rado Vidosic’s squad appeared to be a lot brighter and stronger last week against a solid side in Canberra United. Wins are always difficult to come by in Canberra, and despite the 1-0 scoreline, City looked like a new, grittier team.


Sunday will be a great opportunity to see how we fare against the best the league has to offer and will provide a real insight into just how far City have come.


There are goals here

The expectations around City’s new Kiwi international Hannah Wilkinson were high when her signing was announced this off-season.


A true big-name number 9 has been a missing piece in City’s lineup for a number of years now, and Wilkinson, a 100 cap veteran for the Football Ferns, well and truly fits the bill.


On debut against Canberra, Wilkinson lived up to the hype. Creating several chances for herself and others throughout the night, Wilkinson proved the perfect focal point for City’s attack, and was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet.


Wilkinson’s strike-partner, 18-year-old Holly McNamara, certainly did get her name on the scoresheet, with an absolute screamer of a finish to net the opening goal of the Liberty A-League season. McNamara combined well with Wilkinson, and the two of them looked threatening for most of the night.


This team has goals in them. Last season a lack of scoring was one of the biggest issues for the side, but this year the early signs look different. There will be goals this season, so keep an eye on this attack.

Everyone loves a derby

The Melbourne Derby is the highlight of every A-League fixture. Last season, the derby provided a mixed bag, to say the least. The first derby of the season saw Victory demolish our girls 6-0 in what was a truly shocking day for the club. In contrast, just one week later in the second derby, City fought back and showed incredible courage and perseverance to edge past our rivals late on to win 3-2.


Victory lifted the title last season and kicked off this season with a resounding defeat of Adelaide United. As previously mentioned, Victory are very much the team to beat in this league and have assembled a truly terrifying side for the new campaign.


Derbies, however, are special. Form means nothing. Ladder position means nothing. Titles mean nothing. The hatred between these two clubs runs deep, and these games are always played with a level of passion that means anything could happen.


 

Victory may be the strongest side on paper, but a win on Sunday would see City off to a flying start and in a position to make a genuine tilt at the finals and beyond this season. One thing is for certain, this one will be played with a lot of feeling.

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