NPL Preview: City v Moreland Zebras

Melbourne City’s youth will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2-1 defeat to league leaders Dandenong City this week, heading to CB Smith Reserve to take on the Moreland Zebras in the first cross-conference round of the 2018 NPL2 Season.

City’ loss to Dandenong means that City has slipped to fourth place on the NPL2 Eastern Conference table heading into round eight, Moreland City and Langwarrin vaulting Joe Palatsides’ squad after round seven wins.

This week’s opponents the Moreland Zebras sit in third position on the Western Conference table heading into this Saturday’s fixture, their three wins and four draws meaning they are the only side in the NPL2 yet to taste defeat.

The Zebras, known to their fans as Juventus, played out a 2-2 home draw with St Albans Saints in their last hit out, a week after they defeated State League Side Berwick City 4-3 on penalties to advance to the next round of the FFA Cup.

Managed by former Socceroo and NSL legend Fausto De Amicis, the Zebras have developed somewhat of a reputation as road warriors over the past few seasons, not having suffered defeat away from home since August 27, 2016.

The Zebras only conceded seven times on the road in the 2017 NPL2 season, compared to their 38 goals scored. This road form sat in stark contrast to their home form, which saw the Zebras concede 19 times and lose four of their 14 matches at CB Smith Reserve.

The Zebras finished second in the NPL2 West that year, their season ending with a loss to Dandenong City in the promotion play-off between the second placed sides of the NPL East and West.

As usual, the U20s sides of the two clubs will clash as a curtain raiser prior to the senior contest, Peter Kratky’s sixth-placed City side looking to rebound from a disappointing 5-4 defeat at the hands of Dandenong – their third loss on the trot – against the high flying U20s of the Zebras.

The Zebras U20s sit atop the U20s NPL2 Western Conference table heading into the game, undefeated in their seven matches with five wins, two draws and a healthy goal difference of +12.

In other academy action, City’s U15 and U18 squads will both be looking to back up wins, both having put three past the Port Melbourne Sharks en route to wins last week.

Both sides will hit the road this week, travelling South to take on Kingston City at their home of The Grange Reserve on Sunday.

The U15s, who currently sit perfectly mid-table in 9th position in the 18 team U15 NPL East, will clash with Kingston at 11.30am, with the U18s, who sit in 6th position in the 18 team U18 NPL East, will kick-off at 1.00pm.

Match Details

National Premier Leagues Victoria – NPL2 - Round 8
Moreland Zebras v Melbourne City
Saturday, 14 April 2018
Venue: CB Smith Reserve, Fawkner, Melbourne
Kick-off: U20s – 1.00pm, Seniors – 3.00pm

Photo: Dion Fountas Photograph