Melbourne City Y-League Head Coach and Head of Academy Joe Palatsides has been pleased with his side’s preparation for this Saturday’s Y-League Grand Final, but knows his group faces its stiffest test yet against the West Sydney Wanderers.
Unlike the Wanderers, who defeated the Newcastle Jets 3-0 in their Round 10 match of the Y-League regular season, City had a bye week in the season’s final round.
Thusly, City were unable to use a competitive fixture to try to return to form before the Grand Final after a thoroughly disappointing defeat to the Melbourne Victory in Round 9.
Instead, City’s Youth have played two friendlies against NPL opposition as lead in to the Grand Final, Palatsides hoping that the runouts will prove be enough to prepare his side for Saturday’s contest:
“We knew that we were probably going to qualify for the Grand Final with two games to go in the season,” Palatsides’ said
“So, we made sure that we had two games scheduled in, so every player could get 90 minutes.
“We got two good hit outs for the majority of players, so the players are prepared, even with that week break, and they’ve played at least one game.
Whilst preparations for game haven’t been altered from the standard practices surrounding a Y-League away day, Palatsides does admit that there is a sense of anticipation permeating the halls of the City Football Academy as City’s Youth prepare for the Grand Final:
“It’s been business as usual out on the training track, but there’s an air of excitement,” he said.
“There’s anticipation, the boys are looking forward to the big stage, looking forward to the television coverage with Foxtel.
“I think every player wants to be associated with the Grand Final and everything that comes with it.
“We're focused on making sure that we prepare properly, that the players prepare properly on and off the pitch.
“That’s included a look at a few clips of their opponents, so we’re hoping that we’re well prepared leading into the game.”
The game will mark City’s second straight appearance in the completion’s finale, having defeated Sydney FC 3-2 in last year’s Grand Final.
A win would secure City their third youth crown in four years, and tie them with Sydney FC for having, when it comes to trophies at least, the most successful academy in A-League history.
However, Palatsides may have to run out a team on Saturday that is missing several high-profile players both from last years final and the exceptional run in form that marked City's early season.
Daniel Arzani, Connor Metcalfe, Nathaniel Atkinson and potentially even Denis Genreau and Ramy Najjarine having all earned call ups to the senior side or unavailable for selection due to injury:
“The boss [Warren Joyce] will make that decision later in the week and we’ll go along with what the boss wants to do,” said Palatsides
“The first team gets priority.”
Despite these losses, Palatsides’ is confident in his sides depth entering the Grand Final:
“We’ve had all our youth league contracted players play this season, and we’ve probably had three or four players who were train on players who also played,” he said
“We’re really happy each year when we have depth, when the whole squad plays and has some input.
“It’s [The Grand Final] a showcase for the young players and whoever’s going to play will deserve a spot in the team.”
Saturday’s Grand Final will be played in Newcastle as part of a historical triple header, with Foxtel on hand to broadcast the Y-League, W-League and A-League games on the card.
And with the pressure of a season decider being compounded by the presence of Foxtel cameras broadcasting the game and the desire to make an impact with the eyes of Australia watching, the Grand Final looms as the biggest game of a number City’s squad’s careers.
Palatsides is keen to see how they respond to the pressure:
“It’s an opportunity for all the boys to really stake their claim,” he said
“Not just within the club, but on a national stage where they can really perform under pressure.
“This is going to be against the best opposition in Australia and they’re going have to play at the highest level.
“We’ll find out a lot about the players on a day like Saturday.”
Saturday's Y-League Grand Final against Western Sydney will be played at McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle. Kick-off 2pm