With the dust now settling on the 2017/18 FOXTEL Y-League Regular Season, Melbourne City’s Youth have confirmed that they will be returning to defend their 2016/17 crown in this year’s Grand Final.
Despite losing their last two games of the season to the Perth Glory and Melbourne Victory, City’s early season run of form that saw them go undefeated in their first six games was enough for them to top the Y-League’s Group A.
With five wins, a draw and two losses to their name, City finished three points clear of the second placed Melbourne Victory in the race to the top, with the result of Tuesday’s Adelaide United v Brisbane Roar game set to determine if it will be the Reds or the Perth Glory – who stormed down the season’s final stretch as they won their final three games – who will take third place in the Group.
With the announcement that the Grand Final will take place as part of a historic triple header in Newcastle on Saturday, City will spend this week looking to revive the form that saw them routinely dominate their opposition at season's beginning, with a 3-0, 45-minute demolition of the Roar and a 9-2 shellacking of the Victory amongst the early season highlights.
However, City will be looking to rediscover this form without some of it’s key drivers, with the likes of Daniel Arzani, Nathaniel Atkinson, Connor Metcalfe and Denis Genreau all having been travelling with the senior team in recent weeks, and Senior Head Coach Warren Joyce indicating that there may be call ups looming for more of City’s Youth in the wake of Ross McCormack’s departure.
Instead, it will be up to the likes of Josh Cavallo, Gianluca Iannucci, Dylan Pierias and Lucas Portelli to step up if City are to defend their crown.
Portelli, who was part of a City contingent that trained with the Brazilian National Side during their recent tour of Australia, has developed into one of the games best defensive prospects over the course of the season.
Continuing to grow into his tall frame, Portelli has improved not only as a defender over the course of the campaign, but has shown vision and passing ability more often exhibited by midfielders - launching many a pinpoint long ball that turned defence to attack at the drop of a hat throughout the season.
The 2000 born defender will have to be at his best on Saturday, as City run out against the winners of the Y-League’s Group B, the West Sydney Wanderers.
The Wanderers path to the Y-League Grand Final was a similar one to City, winning their first five games of the campaign before falling off, losing two of their last three games.
The Wanderers game is highlighted by their significant firepower in front of goal, coming into the Grand Final having scored 27 goals in the regular season at an average of 4.1 goals a game.
This high-powered attack is led by Abraham Majok, who led the Y-League in scoring with eight goals.
Born in a Kenyan refugee camp to South Sudanese parents, Majok came to Australia as a five year old and has become one of Australia’s best attacking prospects since signing for the Wanderers from FNSW NPL side Mt Druitt Rangers.
The Wanderers squad also features some faces that will be familiar for City fans, with ex-City Youth players Jordan Hall and John Roberts part of the West Sydney squad.
The Wanderers booked their place in the Grand Final in their final match of the 17/18 regular season, defeating the Newcastle Jets 3-0 to pip Harbourside rivals Sydney FC to top place of Group B.
Saturday’s game will be a significant game in the history of the Wanderers, the game marking their first appearance in the Y-League Grand Final, having finished second in Group B in 16/17 and third in 15/16.