Western United will take on Melbourne City in the game of the year on Saturday – a top of the table clash that could have massive permutations for the rest of the Isuzu UTE A-League Men season.
With both sides in good form and continuing to fight at the top of the league, this game is set to produce plenty of drama on and off the pitch.
A number of key storylines will be in place around the match and there could be various factors that determine the final outcome of the clash.
Western United aiming to continue good run against Melbourne City
After losing each of the first five meetings against Melbourne City across the Club’s first two seasons in existence, Western United has begun to turn the tide against its crosstown rivals.
Those five straight defeats have been flipped into three wins on the bounce against Patrick Kisnorbo’s side, with one victory in the 2020/21 season and the other two coming in this campaign.
Not only has Western United been the only team to beat City twice this season, but John Aloisi’s side is the only one in the A-League Men to not concede a goal against the reigning champions, which it has managed twice.
Two separate 1-0 wins earlier in the season thanks to goals from Dylan Wenzel-Halls and Steven Lustica secured the six points United have taken from City thus far, and the team will be hoping for another strong performance and another good result this weekend.
Jostling for position at the top of the A-League Men table
Western United and Melbourne City are currently locked together on 32 points at the top of the league, making this a crucial fixture for both sides if they have visions of lifting the Premier’s Plate.
An extra element to that is the fact that United has two games in hand on City, so a win for Aloisi’s men could give them the chance to open up a nine-point gap on their rivals once games played are evened out.
Alternatively, City can make sure they stay right within touching distance of the Green and Black with a win themselves, keeping the pressure on the Green and Black in the run-in to the end of the regular season.
In terms of finals outlook, both sides seem to be pulling away from Both sides will be out to compete for arguably a big three points on the way to aiming for silverware and supremacy in the finals come May.
A potential meeting of Johnny Warren Medal finalists
Now beyond the halfway point of the season, talk is beginning to emerge of candidates for individual and team of the year honours come the end of the campaign.
Two such strong candidates for the Johnny Warren Medal – the A-League Men’s player of the year award – are Western United star Leo Lacroix and Melbourne City’s Florin Berenguer.
Lacroix has been immense at the heart of United’s backline, leading the side to the best defensive record in the league with just 12 goals conceded and eight clean sheets in 15 games.
The six-foot-six-inch Swiss international also had an impact at the other end in United’s last game against Newcastle Jets, scoring his first two goals for the Club in the 2-1 victory.
Berenguer is enjoying arguably his best campaign in Australia, with five goals and three assists from midfield making him one of City’s most indispensable players at the moment.
The Frenchman has flourished in the middle of the pitch under Kisnorbo and has become one of the league’s best midfielders, but United will look to tame him and ensure Lacroix comes out on top on the pitch.