Finally, the game we have all been waiting for. A decider for the Championship. At the start of the season I was dreaming of Sydney FC beating Melbourne City in the grand final. Three games into the season, Sydney yet to have a win on the board I almost resigned myself this was a far, FAR off dream that probably wouldn’t happen. Yet here we are, this Sunday with Sydney and City preparing to square off against one another in the last battle of the season. I’m happy to be wrong this time, yet my dream of Sydney beating City to ensure they don’t get three Championships in a row continues.
This is the fifteenth (FIFTEENTH??!!) Prediction Thursday, so I would like to think I have some experience with this now (barely). Last weeks Prediction Thursday ended up biting me on the ass, with Sydney beating Newcastle by the score line I predicted (3-2), even with my predicted winner for Lisa De Vanna, but it sent me through the wringer with the game going to extra time, after Sydney being a head for so much of the game. Maybe last week’s lesson is meant to have taught me to not tempt fate? But don’t worry I won’t listen to last week’s lesson, I’m still going to put my prediction into the universe.
A final with Sydney and City will be one for the neutrals. It’s going to be a ripper. Expect both teams to come out flying, battling for dominance early on in the game, before a rhythm settles, with whichever team not having the bulk of possession relying on a quick counter attacking game. If you are a fan, grab a hold of your scarf and sit tight, this game is going to feel LONG, with so many blips, bumps and glory likely to happen. Good luck.
Here it is, my Championship Prediction Thursday.
Sydney FC v Melbourne City
Sunday 5.00pm 18th February on Fox Sport and SBS Viceland
Ok so bias here leads me to say Sydney will steamroll through City. Logic and a less bias approach is telling me this game is going to be another super tight one. On the one hand, Sydney have yet to lose a game since round three, have some experience of finals football (they’ve not missed out on making the finals in all 10 W-League seasons) and have some of that star power that can be the quality to separate them from other teams at a pinch. City on the other hand, whilst being inconsistent during the season, the last few games they have demonstrated their experience and quality by comfortable victories against some of the best teams this season. So it’s going to be tight no matter what way this game is looked at, with either team having the edge depending on how one looks at it.
Last week’s game showed the best and worst of Sydney. They are capable of getting ahead quickly in a game, but struggled to put the game to bed when the opportunities were there. All Season, Sydney’s method of attack has been quick, attacking soccer. Normally the home team is expected to have the bulk of possession, however with the way Sydney have got the bulk of their goals this season, on the break, it wouldn’t be the worst thing if City wind up being ahead in the possession statistic. Unfortunately for Sydney, they will be without Caitlin Foord for this game after a first half injury to her foot last week will leave her out for a long time yet.
How are they going to win?
Against City, Sydney will be looking to keep their defence tight. One chance and City will take it. This means goalkeeper mistakes and messy defensive work in the box needs to be a distant memory. Meanwhile up front, they are going to need to look at stretching the City defence. One thing I was disappointed last week was, with a player advantage for the second half, Sydney didn’t utilise the width available to them. The City defence plays compact, with their fullbacks always looking for the overlapping run. So Sydney’s goals will likely come from their speed on the counter attack, and from the wings catching the City flying fullbacks out of position.
Want a master class on how to win big games? Just watch this City side. They know when a match truly counts, they can win it. This final will be no different. After early season blips, the City defence have tightened up, with Lydia Williams once again looking comfortable with the ball at her feet (a far cry from some of her earlier slip ups). Until late in the season City were struggling to find goals, yet the last two games have seen them put away five with no reply.
How are they going to win?
Expect City to see a lot of the ball in this game. They love to play a possession type of football, and that’ll be no different in the final. City will see a lot of the ball, but the decider of whether this will be useful or not will be in their final pass. This is a side who have already proven to be lethal in front of goal, with only one chance, but they will have to get that ball right for it to happen. Sydney will be looking to make sure City play in front of the defence, and will probably play deeper to ensure City are unable to play in behind them. With this City’s final ball to their forwards will need to be spot on to give them a chance of getting some shots on goal and hopefully for them in the back of the net.
Key Match Up
Aivi Luik and Kyle Ledbrook
Both are veterans of their respective team, with a bucket load of experience and championships under their belt. One provides the shield to their defence and does the grubby dirty work (Luik), the other is the creator of their teams attacks (Ledbrook). For both teams, if their respective player is on form, the team as a whole is on form. This is a direct match up, so expect during the game for there to be plenty of times the two see each other, with Luik stopping Ledbrook in her tracks and Ledbrook besting Luik and setting up another Sydney attack. There is almost a feel of an arm wrestle between these two players, with whoever wins will likely be winning the game for their team. Honestly I can see this match up being where the game will be one by either team.
Sydney FC 1 – 1 Melbourne City regular time, with Sydney winning 2-1 in extra time, once again by Lisa De Vanna. (If I wasn’t so biased I would maybe flip this to City winning in extra time with a Fishlock wonder goal, but even typing this leaves a bad taste in my mouth, so I’m hoping this doesn’t happen!)