On Saturday afternoon, just hours before Daniel Arzani potentially takes the field against France at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the group that he lined up with less than 12 months ago, Melbourne City’s senior NPL side, will take the field at LaTrobe University to face Whittlesea Ranges FC.
City last week suffered a 3-1 defeat at the hands of NPL2 Eastern Conference foes Nunawading, unable to capitalize on a 1-0 halftime lead earned by Yasin Nur’s 8th-minute opener.
A goal from Nunawading and former A-League star Fahid ben Khalfallah only minutes after the second half resumed would bring the visiting Nunawading level; before a brace from attacker Borbor Sam would seal then seal his side the three points.
That loss means that City’s senior NPL side’s losing streak now sits at five, the longest losing streak experienced in the club’s NPL history.
Despite this rotten run, City’s strong run of early season form means that they still sit in the fourth position on the NPL2 Eastern Conference table, albeit over ten points behind the league-leading Dandenong and Moreland City outfits.
Whilst the imminent return of several of the squad’s highly rated scholarship may give some level of hope for a turnaround in recent form, Head Coach Joe Palatsides has indicated that it will take time for these players to regain match fitness before too much can be expected of them.
This week’s opponents in Whittlesea come into the contest having broken a losing run of their own last week, downing the St Albans Saints 2-1 on the road thanks to goals from Matthew Iuliano and Jacob Colosimo.
Whittlesea is currently mired in a relegation battle in the NPL2 Western Conference, coming into Saturday sitting ninth in the ten-team competition and only three points clear of last-placed Sunshine George Cross SC.
In contrast to City's seniors, the news was better for Peter Kratky’s U20 side last weekend, with the squad recording their third win on the trot with a 2-0 triumph over the 20s of Nunawading.
Goals to Sam Morrison and Dennis Menelaou did the damage for City in that contest, with their eyes now turning to the 20s of Whittlesea – who they will meet in the traditional curtain-raiser clash prior to the senior contest.
Whittlesea's 20s recorded a 1-1 draw last week, and head into Saturday’s fixture in the same precarious position as their senior counterparts – second bottom in the NPL2 U20 Western Conference.
City’s U15 and U18 sides, coming off 4-3 and 5-4 wins, respectively, over Langwarrin SC last week will also return to action on Saturday afternoon as they make the short drive to Wembley Park to take on Box Hill.
Simon Zappia’s 15s, who enter Saturday’s fixture in fourth position on the NPL U15 Eastern conference thanks to a five-game winning run, will take the field at 10:15 in the morning.
Davey van ‘t Schips 18s, who’s dominating season sees them enter the weekend’s fixture in the top position on the NPL U18 Eastern Conference table, will then play their fixture later in the afternoon, meeting Box Hill at 5:30.
National Premier Leagues Victoria – NPL2 - Round 16
Melbourne City FC v Whittlesea Ranges FC
Saturday, 16 June 2018
Venue: La Trobe University (Pitch 1), Bundoora, Melbourne
Kick-off: U20s – 12.30pm, Seniors – 3.00pm