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Preview: Sydney FC vs Melbourne City FC – 26/2/22

Season Preview

Kick-off: 7:45pm

Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Kogarah

Broadcast: live on Network Ten

Live stream: Tenplay and Paramount+

Referee: Chris Beath

Last time they met: don’t remind me

Click here to discuss the match on the forum.

It’s an old joke, but gee, it’s a good thing that revenge is a dish best served cold. Rain and wind are inevitable tonight at Kogarah, where last year’s Grand Finalists meet for the first time since Sydney’s second-worst Grand Final. It’s been exactly eight months since that depressing match – tonight’s game is one of many rescheduled due to COVID.

Jubilee Stadium hardly has the best drainage in Sydney, and with 20 mm of rain expected, the game could be in a little danger. However, the conditions aren’t expected to be catastrophic, and the game is expected at time of writing to proceed.

The Sky Blues should be desperate to avenge last year’s loss, and bounce back from Wednesday’s fairly unlucky 1-nil to Western United. But the greatest desperation will come from the strikers – Bobo has scored four goals in his last six, but everyone else is shooting blanks.

Sydney have flirted with form at times this season, but something keeps going wrong. Whether it’s injuries, required rotations or international duty, Steve Corica can claim he’s been unable to get his best XI on the park. But with finals looming, everyone has to make the best of what they have. Corica might use tonight’s clash – his 100th in charge – to stress-test his approach for tough games to come.

Changes are expected after Wednesday’s efforts:

Up front, Bobo should drop to the bench. Adam Le Fondre seems likely to start, though whether he needs a rest, or to keep plugging away for a goal, is a tough question to answer. Elvis Kamsoba also seems to be coming off his early-season boil. Trent Buhagier’s pace could keep City honest, while Patrick Wood’s fitness is anyone’s guess. Kosta Barbarouses is returning to fitness but may not start, while Corica stated on Friday this match would be ‘probably a little bit early’ for new signing Luciano Narsingh. Corica’s problem may be shuffling an array of imperfect options: some ageing, some short of fitness, and almost all short of form.

The midfield is similarly unclear. Anthony Caceres limped off with a cork after a knee clash on Wednesday but ‘pulled up well’ before Friday’s training session and is available to play some part. Max Burgess played 86 minutes and Paolo Retre played 69 minutes, so may not start, despite Burgess’ growing attacking influence. Corica stated Patrick Yazbek would be more ready to start in a week’s time, but might have been being cagey. Mustafa Amini and Milos Ninkovic came off the bench on Wednesday and should start. It’s easy to imagine Amini and Retre starting in the middle, with Yazbek off the bench, while Ninkovic will start on the left and Caceres on the right.

The defence is much clearer: Andrew Redmayne will remain in goal, while Alex Wilkinson will return, accompanied by James Donachie or Ben Warland. Rhyan Grant and Connor O’Toole should start out wide, but given their mid-week efforts and the difficulties of playing in the rain, may get substituted for Warland or Callum Talbot. Rumours of the return of Puddleinho in the last line of defence persist.

Melbourne City are the most-feared team in the league and in reasonable form, winning four of their last five and their last three on the road. However, Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Mariners was fortunate to say the least, aided by an extraordinary penalty error from Shaun Evans. Perhaps lady luck will turn towards the original Sky Blues.

City’s squad is stronger than ever, and is well-placed for the match. Scott Jamieson is returning following two weeks off with a hamstring injury, while new signing Tsubasa Endoh is available and Connor Metcalfe returns from suspension.

Up front, Patrick Kisnorbo can choose from Jamie MacLaren, Matthew Leckie, Marco Tilio, Andrew Nabbout and Endoh, with further support from Florin Berenguer and Aidan O’Neill. Metcalfe and Rostyn Griffiths could pop up in midfield or defence, with the backline also formed by some of Nuno Reis, Scott Galloway, Englishman Carl Jenkinson and Jamieson, everyone’s favourite former Sky Blue.

Click here to discuss the match on the forum.