Melbourne City FC face Western Sydney Wanderers in the Hyundai A-League at AAMI Park on Saturday night. Here is an in-depth look at Tony Popovic’s side in our latest Scout Report.
Back to the Wanderers of old
It is a reminder of how quickly fortunes can change in football.
After a difficult campaign in 2014/15, Tony Popovic's side have completed a remarkable turn around so far this season, surging into second place on the table on the back of a ten match unbeaten streak in the Hyundai A-League.
The Wanderers have won eight of those matches and have been firing on all cylinders in front of goal, finding the back of the net 18 times during their unbeaten run, which continued after a 0-0 draw against Adelaide United last week.
A transition into a new stylistic philosophy based on patient use of possession has been the hallmark of Western Sydney’s resurgence. The likes of Mitch Nichols, Dimas and Andreu have formed an impressive axis in midfield, providing freedom for pacey winger Romeo Castelen to trouble opposition defences.
With both teams in striking distance of top spot on the A-League table, tonight’s clash presents an opportunity for City to cement themselves as contenders with a positive performance against the competition’s in-form team.
Evergreen Bridge in career best form.
A competition stalwart who has plied his trade in the Hyundai A-League since the competition’s inception in 2005, striker Mark Bridge has played a key role in the Wanderers resurgence this season.
One of only three foundation players remaining at Wanderland, the evergreen striker his back to his predatory best with five goals in his last six matches, forming a devastating partnership in the final third with attackers Romeo Castelen, Mitch Nichols and Dario Vidosic.
Bridge’s versatility makes him a key member of the Wanderers’ attack. Whether he plays centrally, wide or in behind the main striker, the 30-year-old has the ability to influence a match from any position and will be a key man for City to stop at AAMI Park on Saturday.
Flying full-backs contributing in attack.
Despite Western Sydney's emphasis on building attacks through the middle of the pitch, full-back Scott Jamieson has been a standout contributor to the Wanderers unbeaten streak.
Lining up on the left side of defence, Jamieson’s elite crossing ability is a key outlet for the Wanderers in the final third. He leads the league in crosses played (72), has contributed four assists and has completed 19 key passes - the highest of any defender in the competition.
With right-back Ivan Franjic ruled out through injury, City's defence will have to be on their toes to combat the threat posed by the flying defender.
Last Time We Met
Melbourne City FC 0-3 Western Sydney Wanderers – Hyundai A-League 2015/16, Round 6.
After a tense opening half saw both sides enter the interval on level terms, the Wanderers drew first blood immediately after half-time when Mitch Nichols found himself unmarked at the back post to turn home Dario Vidosic’s cross for the opening goal.
Tony Popovic’s side soon doubled their advantage in controversial circumstances when referee Peter Green used his discretion to allow Scott Neville continue play - despite Vidosic being in an offside position - as Federico Piovaccari smashed home the resulting cut-back to net his first Hyundai A-League goal.
Mark Bridge added a third goal only six minutes from time, but the damage was already done as City slumped to a second consecutive home defeat.
- Melbourne City has scored 32 goals so far in the Hyundai A-League this season; 10 more than any other team..
- Western Sydney Wanderers have won seven and drawn two of their 10 Hyundai A-League matches against Melbourne City.
- City is one of only two teams (along with the Mariners) yet to be involved in a 0-0 draw so far this Hyundai A-League season.
- Wanderers marquee man Federico Piovaccari has been caught offside 20 times this Hyundai A-League season, the equal most of any player in the competition (with the Jets Milos Trifunovic).
- Both Harry Novillo and Bruno Fornaroli have made 34 shots at goal this season, the equal second most of any player in the competition.