Venue – AAMI Park, Melbourne, Australia
Time – 7:50PM (Local) (7:50PM (AEST))
Date – Friday, 7 April 2017
After two straight defeats up in Sydney, Melbourne City return home in danger of missing out on a top-four finish and a home final – and they could be set for more pain against a resurgent Adelaide United.
This time last season City led the A-League after four straight wins, leaving them in the box seat to win their first major men’s trophy.
Two straight defeats – away to Perth Glory and at home against Adelaide – saw City slump to fourth, however, and while they recovered to win their elimination final against the Western Australians, the Reds eliminated John van ‘t Schip’s side 4-1 at the semi-final stage. Fast forward to this year and City again look to be throwing away a potential first – AFC Champions League (ACL) qualification – with consecutive defeats to Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers leaving the Bundoora-based club fourth in the table.
And again, City finish their season with a game against Adelaide at AAMI Park plus a trip to nib Stadium to face Perth.
With 36 points, City must win their remaining two matches if they are to overhaul third-placed Brisbane Roar (39) and finish third, which – assuming either Sydney FC or Melbourne Victory win the championship – would see Michael Valkanis’ men qualify for the preliminary rounds of the 2018 ACL. City haven’t beaten a team currently in the A-League’s top six since early January when they overcame the Wanderers 1-0, which underlines their inconsistent form since claiming the FFA Cup in November. Adelaide could again be a thorn in City’s side on Friday night as the Reds are unbeaten in five games in all competitions.
This could also be an audition for Adelaide coach Guillermo Amor, who is out of contract at season’s end and has been linked with City at various times this term.
The opening match of Round 26 will also see the debut of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system in the A-League. As part of FIFA’s ongoing testing and trialling of the system, VAR Strebre Delovski will be on hand at AAMI Park to assist referee Kris Griffith-Jones as the A-League becomes the first top-tier domestic league to use the video technology.
VARs will be used over the remaining two rounds and the finals. City have conceded three goals in their past two games and an average of 2.2 per match in their last five fixtures.
Valkanis will be thrilled to get Michael Jakobsen back from a long-term calf injury, while Osama Malik’s return from suspension is also timely with fellow centre-back Ruon Tongyik out through illness.
Jakobsen is vital for City – they have conceded 1.2 goals per game when the Danish central defender has played and 1.7 without him.
The visitors have also received some defensive reinforcements with centre-back Iacopo La Rocca (hip) back after missing six games, while midfielder Kim Jae-sung has also been included in Amor’s squad.
At the other end of the pitch, the Reds – the A-League’s worst attacking side in 2016-17 – have scored nine goals in their last four games.
Baba Diawara (4 goals), Dylan McGowan and Sergio Cirio (both 2) have been critical to Adelaide’s improvement in front of goal. Michael Jakobsen.
The 31-year-old told SEN 1116 radio this week that a set-back with his quadriceps stopped him from making an earlier return to the pitch but insists he’s now ready for the rest of the season.
FORM LINES (all competitions)
Melbourne City: LWWLL
Adelaide United: DDWWD
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), 22.Michael JAKOBSEN, 23.Bruno FORNAROLI, 26.Luke BRATTAN, 34.Denis GENREAU
**two to be omitted**
6.Osama MALIK (returns from suspension), 8.Neil KILKENNY (returns from injury), 22.Michael JAKOBSEN (returns from injury)
21.Ruon TONGYIK (illness)
7.Corey GAMEIRO (ACL – season), 27.Fernando BRANDAN (ACL – season), 28.Steve KUZMANOVSKI (ACL – season)
Adelaide United squad:
1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk) (c), 2.Michael MARRONE, 3.Iacopo LA ROCCA, 4.Dylan McGOWAN, 5.Taylor REGAN, 7.Jae-sung KIM, 8.ISAIAS, 9.Baba DIAWARA, 10.Marcelo CARRUSCA, 11.Sergio CIRIO, 12.Mark OCHIENG, 16.Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 17.Nikola MILEUSNIC, 18.Riley McGREE, 19.Ben GARUCCIO, 21.Tarek ELRICH, 30.Daniel MARGUSH (gk), 92.Eli BABALJ
**two to be omitted**
3.Iacopo LA ROCCA (returns from injury), 7.Jae-sung KIM (promoted)
23.Jordan ELSEY (knee – season), 24.Jordan O’DOHERTY (ankle – 1 week)
PREDICTION – Melbourne City 2-1 Adelaide United