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Talking points preview: WSW vs City

Our City girls will hope to secure the three points that would keep them atop the Liberty A-League ladder when they travel to face Western Sydney Wanderers this afternoon.

The team has enjoyed a mid-season break having not played since the 27th of December, when it narrowly secured victory against Perth Glory at home.

Our upcoming opposition recently secured its first point of the season, playing out a 1-1 draw with Wellington Phoenix on Tuesday in the curtain-raiser that preceded City's ALM win later on the same afternoon.

With the impending clash looming as an opportunity to rediscover our attacking form, especially as we adapt to the loss of another star forward, here are the major talking points ahead of our meeting with the Wanderers:

Photo: Brendon Thorne / Getty Images

Ekic era ends

She may have turned out in the City blue just six times, but Emina Ekic's spell in Melbourne has been a memorable one for a player who has quickly endeared herself to the fans.

Scoring four goals and assisting once, Ekic appeared set for her breakout professional season until a cruel leg break against Perth Glory last round prematurely brought her time in Australia to an end, as the American announced in a now-deleted Instagram post this week.

Screenshot: Twitter user @tarynheddo from Ekic's Instagram

Though extremely unfortunate news, the injury likely accelerates Maria Rojas' return to the squad; the Chilean initially signed as an injury replacement for Hannah Wilkinson (now recovered), and was going to return to the club in mid-February when Ekic's loan was supposed to end, but could now return as soon as her national team training camp is over later this month.

In the meantime, however, the double absence of Ekic and Rojas leaves us with a hole to fill on the left wing. Chelsea Blissett has been used there sporadically this campaign, and the versatile wing-back could return there again to face Western Sydney.

Can we get Wilkinson (and the team) firing again?

Look, it was just one game, but City's first performance with Wilkinson back in the starting lineup paled significantly against the exhilarating attacking displays we'd seen against bottom-half opposition previously.

City's only goal against Perth Glory on December 27 arrived from the penalty spot, with the team struggling to create attacking opportunities particularly in the first half of the contest.

Wilkinson herself had just two shots, both off-target, as her teammates apparently struggled to adapt to the difference in playing style between their returning Kiwi striker and the more creative Rojas, who had previously lead the line.

Photo: Melbourne City FC

Fans will require little reminding of Wilkinson's striking pedigree following a record-breaking 2021/22 campaign in City blue, but will want to see improvement across the board from Dario Vidosic's side when it comes to finding the back of the net on Sunday afternoon.

Underwhelming Wanderers

Though they're not quite as poor as the team they've been grouped with, Western Sydney again joins Wellington Phoenix as the league's lower outliers in Season 2022/23.

The Wanderers have fought hard and played out several tight contests (including three 1-0 losses), but weren't able to pick up their first point of the season until a grim 1-1 draw against the aforementioned Phoenix on Monday this week.

Kat Smith's side have actually performed quite admirably in defence, falling middle of the pack for goals-conceded-per-game, but lack a clinical edge up front, underperforming their Expected Goals figure of 5.3 by finding the back of the net on just three occasions.

From a City perspective, we'll be hoping that new signing Sarina Bolden doesn't feature for our opposition later today with the Wanderers hoping that the Philippine-international striker will be the answer to their goalscoring woes. Bolden has 18 goals from 30 international caps for a footballing nation that is on the rise under former Matildas coach Alan Stajcic. The forward wasn't included in the matchday squad against Wellington.

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