Melbourne City FC will be boosted by the return of midfielder Aaron Mooy for Saturday night’s Hyundai A-League clash against Western Sydney Wanderers, but will be without defender Ivan Franjic when the two sides square off at AAMI Park.A depleted City outfit showed courage to register a 2-2 draw in an entertaining contest with Sydney FC last week, but will be in better shape to face the second placed Wanderers – who arrive at AAMI Park on the back of an unbeaten 10 match streak.
Midfielder Erik Paartalu is available for selection following his late withdrawal from the clash against Sydney, while Paulo Retre – who signed a new deal with the Club earlier this week - is likely to deputise at right-back for the injured Franjic after completing his one match suspension.
Defender Michael Zullo looked sharp in his return to first-team action against Sydney FC, and could come into contention.
While the absence of Franjic is a big blow to the side’s defensive structure, Melbourne City FC Head Coach John van’t Schip said insists the focus should remain on the players at his disposal.
“Ivan Franjic is out,” the Dutchman said. “He didn’t train this week and is still having problems recovering from the cork. He’s making some progression now but it’s still too late to get him involved for the game.”
“Aaron is ready for 90 minutes. We took him out last week as a precaution. He played the other games with a bit of soreness; that’s gone now and he has recovered from that. He had a busy schedule and got a hit on his rib on top of that, but everything is okay.
"We have to move on, we know that Ivan is important, but for us now it is just looking forward and it's about focusing on the players are available.”
Youth team graduate Ali Eyigun is also named in the squad after making his Hyundai A-League debut against Sydney last week. A tactical reshuffle before half-time saw Eyigun substituted after only 37 minutes, but van’t Schip insists he has not lost faith in the 18-year-old.
“Ali is available. I told him very clearly he’s a player for the future, and the future can be very quick. We are trusting in his quality and his talent,” he said.
“He is a very strong character, he understands we had to do something. In fact, he said it was nice to get those 30 minutes, it is only motivating him to do more and train harder.”
“We have trust in him and it has not disappeared by one performance that was not his mistake, it was more that we had some bigger problems that we had to resolve.”
Currently sitting six points behind the second placed Wanderers in third position, Saturday night’s clash presents City with an opportunity to cement themselves as contenders with a positive performance against top-four opponents.
With a 3-0 loss to the Wanderers in the previous meeting at AAMI Park in the back of the mind, van’t Schip insists his side have learned valuable lessons from the defeat, as the Club aims to secure a place in the Finals Series.
“We always look back at the games we have played and we can take something out that we can learn from," he said. "That is something that we certainly do, we have to prepare the boys as good as possible and ever though it’s a few weeks ago, it’s good to have a look back and from then on we have grown.”
“They [Western Sydney] have grown as well. They have made very big steps and credit to Tony Popovic. They’re a team that everybody is now chasing, so it’s up to us to show that we are up to it.”
“Championships you never win by just winning against the best teams, championships you win by just winning the most games and getting a lot of points. Of course it’s important in the direct confrontation, especially now, to get a good result [against the Wanderers].
“But over the season it’s important to get as many points as possible. We want to win every game, we want to play as best as possible and we know that we have to grow in that process.”