Venue – Allianz Stadium, Sydney, Australia
Date – Saturday 1 April 2017
Time – 7:50PM (Local) (7:50PM (AEDT))
With the Premiers Plate safely in their locker, the Sky Blues are now chasing a record Hyundai A-League regular season points haul.
With Tim Cahill back from Caltex Socceroos duty, can City inflict Sydney FC’s first home defeat of the campaign?
Any thoughts that Sydney FC might take their foot of the pedal now they’ve won the Premiers Plate were quickly dispelled by coach Graham Arnold during the week.
Arnold said any player whose performance dropped off in the run to the Finals Series would find themselves on the bench.
He also reinforced the Sky Blues’ goal of eclipsing the record points total in a Hyundai A-League season, currently held by Brisbane Roar who accumulated 65 points in the 11-team 2010/11 season.
Sydney FC need seven points from their last three games to surpass that mark. Melbourne City remain locked in a battle for top four spots and will be keen to rebound quickly from a 3-1 loss to a Brendon Santalab-inspired Western Sydney Wanderers last time out.
They remain one of the most watchable sides in the competition and will want to build some momentum ahead of the Finals Series.
They also grabbed a share of the points when they last visited Sydney FC with only a late penalty denying them victory at Homebush Stadium in round ten. Melbourne City have scored seven goals from headers so far this season, more than any other team in the competition.
Both Sydney FC and Melbourne City have recorded 337 shots at goal so far this season, more than any other teams in the competition.
No player has contested more duels this season than Sky Blues striker Bobo (338), although City skipper Bruno Fornaroli (335) is a close second. Fornaroli has scored four goals in his last four games against the Sky Blues, but he hasn’t found the net in either of their last two meetings.
Bobo’s strike in the 3-0 win in Perth last Sunday took him to a dozen goals for the season and the Brazilian continues to combine very effectively with Filip Holosko in Sydney FC’s attacking third.
But Alex Brosque (9 goals) and Milos Ninkovic (8) have also been prolific for the runaway league leaders, meaning City can’t focus their defensive strategy on just one player.
The Sky Blues also need just one goal to be the first club to chalk up 50 for the Hyundai A-League season.
Back-to-back braces from City skipper Bruno Fornaroli have rocketed him back into Golden Boot contention, but the Uruguayan master will need every weapon in his arsenal to unlock a Sydney FC defence which has conceded just 11 goals all season and last weekend kept a record-equalling 14th clean sheet.
Tim Cahill may return from Caltex Socceroos duty via the bench with winger Nick Fitzgerald in sparkling form.
Michael Valkanis would also love more goalscoring output from Fornaroli’s support cast, including Bruce Kamau, Nicolas Colazo and Anthony Caceres, who have combined for just six goals all season.
Sydney FC secured the Premiers Plate with four games to spare when Brisbane beat Melbourne Victory last Saturday night.
FORM LINES (last five games)
Sydney FC: LWWWW
Melbourne City: WLWWL
Sydney FC 2 Melbourne City 1
Sydney FC squad:
1.Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 4.Alex WILKINSON, 5.Jordy BUIJS, 6.Joshua BRILLANTE, 7.Michael ZULLO, 8.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 9.BOBÔ, 10.Milos NINKOVIC, 11.Bernie IBINI, 12.Aaron CALVER, 13.Brandon O’NEILL, 14.Alex BROSQUE (c), 17.David CARNEY, 18.Matt SIMON, 19.George BLACKWOOD, 20.Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 21.Filip HOLOSKO, 23.Rhyan GRANT
**two to be omitted**
19.George BLACKWOOD (promoted), 20.Danny VUKOVIC (gk) (returns from international duty), 23.Rhyan GRANT (returns from international duty)
40.Thomas HEWARD-BELLE (gk) (returns to NPL squad)
22.Seb RYALL (hamstring – 1 week)
Melbourne City FC squad:
1.Thomas SORENSEN (gk), 2.Manny MUSCAT, 3.Josh ROSE, 5.Ivan FRANJIC, 6.Osama MALIK, 8.Neil KILKENNY, 9.Nicolas COLAZO, 10.Anthony CACERES, 11.Bruce KAMAU, 12.Nick FITZGERALD, 14.Daniel ARZANI, 17.Tim CAHILL, 18.Paulo RETRE, 20.Dean BOUZANIS (gk), 21.Ruon TONGYIK, 23.Bruno FORNAROLI, 26.Luke BRATTAN, 34.Dennis GENREAU
**two to be omitted**
17.Tim CAHILL (returns from international duty), 34.Denis GENREAU (promoted)
7.Corey GAMEIRO (ACL – season), 27.Fernando BRANDAN (ACL – season), 28.Steve KUZMANOVSKI (ACL – season)