To be the best you have to beat the best
If there is a greater challenge than facing the reigning champions on their home turf, we are yet to see it.
Sydney FC’s 5-0 drubbing of the Western Sydney Wanderers last Saturday night was a timely reminder of the prolonged dominance of Graham Arnold’s side over the last season and a half.
But a swing in momentum and back-to-back wins sees Warren Joyce’s side primed to give the contest a red-hot crack.
Are the floodgates about to open?
Ross McCormack may be equal first in the race for the Golden Boot this season, but his match-winning strike against the Central Coast Mariners on Sunday was the Scotsman’s first goal from open play.
The 31-year-old has registered seven goals this season, equal to Roy O’Donovan and Andrija Kaluderovic, and is second in the league for shots on goal (25).
McCormack has been a terrific addition to Warren Joyce’s squad this season but now that he has scored from open play, is the monkey off the back?
We will have to wait and see but a clinical Ross McCormack from any position on the field is a frightening prospect for any opposition.
Battle of the clean sheets
Melbourne City are only second to Sydney FC for the number of clean sheets recorded this season – the Sky Blues have kept their opposition scoreless on five occasions compared to City’s four.
For City Eugene Galekovic has recorded three of the four clean sheets, but an injury scare prior to the clash against the Newcastle Jets has seen Dean Bouzanis make the most of his opportunity over the past fortnight.
Bouzanis may not have kept a clean sheet in his first appearance for the season against the Jets, but the keeper made several match-winning saves, earning him a spot in last week’s starting XI ahead of Galekovic.
Bouzanis registered his first clean sheet in his second appearance last week, playing a crucial role in the build up to City’s goal.
City will be looking to equal Sydney’s tally of five clean sheets and a register a goal (or more) of their own when they face off on Friday night.
The exuberance of youth
An accumulation of yellow cards saw Manny Muscat suspended for last week’s clash against the Mariners. The right-back’s suspension opened up an opportunity for Nathaniel Atkinson to make his debut, and boy did he impress the fans.
Following a stellar performance in City Youth’s 9-2 derby win over Melbourne Victory the previous week, Joyce rewarded the 18-year-old with a place in City’s starting line-up.
His ability to take on the game and show very few sign of nerves impressed the home fans and as the game progressed, the youngster formed a battle with former team mate Josh Rose, giving the veteran a solid run for his money.
Second time up
Friday night’s clash will be the second time that City face the Sky Blues in the Hyundai A-League this season.
Nick Fitzgerald was a stand out performer in their last clash, as was Marcelo Carrusca off the bench.
As we head into the midpoint of the season and the ladder begins to take shape, Friday night’s clash becomes all the more important with six-points separating City in third from the league leaders.