Match Preview: Sydney FC finely positioned to take on Melbourne City

Sydney FC will face Melbourne City at Allianz Stadium on Saturday evening, where a win could see them rise to within two points of second-placed Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne Victory, and record their third consecutive win.

With the Isuzu UTE A-League ladder congested, three points could also see the Sky Blues surpass Macarthur FC into fourth with a game in hand.

Sydney FC went undefeated in their last five games and have only lost once since Christmas.

Still, Ufuk Talay has been adamant that he wants more out of his side, saying he has no “empathy or sympathy for the players… during the game”.

The Sky Blues continued their dominant form defeating Adelaide United 2-1 on Saturday night after they had the better of the chances and continued their defensive momentum, stopping Hiroshi Ibusuki from getting the ball, which saw Adelaide only produce three shots on-goal all game.

A Robert Mak goal and Fabio Gomes penalty steered the Sky Blues two goals ahead of the Reds. They subsequently earned three points and rose to their highest ladder position this season of 5th, surpassing cross-town rivals, Western Sydney Wanderers.

Melbourne City played out a 0-0 draw against rivals Melbourne Victory. In an electric opening half an hour City troubled Paul Izzo twice, with Marco Tilio and Mathew Leckie hitting the woodwork.

City’s defence has had puzzling results, letting in nine goals in their previous three matches, despite getting a clean sheet against the Victory. Although if it wasn’t for desperate saves and clearances from Jamie Young and Curtis Good, Victory could have walked away with the three points.  

Ones to Watch:

Mathew Leckie: 
Mathew Leckie returned to the field against Perth Glory three weeks ago but didn’t earn a solid shot on goal until the eighth minute of the Melbourne derby. His shot may have smacked into the post, but it was proof that Leckie is an attacking threat having scored sixteen goals in the past two seasons and creating numerous more from out wide.

Leckie is known for his physicality, acceleration and shot power, which he demonstrated with his winning goal against Denmark in the World Cup in 2022.

Young guns Hayden Matthews and Jake Girdwood-Reich will likely come up against the quality forward, as he played as part of a devastating front four alongside Jamie MacLaren, Andrew Nabbout and Marco Tilio on Saturday.

Anthony Caceres:

Anthony Caceres was named player of the match for a second consecutive week after another valued performance, which saw him earn his fourth goal contribution in two games with his assist to Robert Mak.

Anthony Caceres dribbling the ball

Caceres has become a key player for the Sky Blues, dribbling in around the opposition defence, making himself available for opportunities and creating quality passes that have led to goals such as Mak’s.

His new position as Sydney FC’s left midfielder has seen him create more opportunities to penetrate the opposition box and cause headaches for the opposing team’s defence.  

H2H 2023/2024 Season:

8-2-7SYD – RECORD – MCY6-4-7
6-2-2H2H IN SYD LAST 10 GAMES2-2-6
54.8{98698ff7ed92b99d4e0cecdfdc9e4dccf4922e0a04ff9db373daf4aa83b73fe2}POSSESSION PG55.6{98698ff7ed92b99d4e0cecdfdc9e4dccf4922e0a04ff9db373daf4aa83b73fe2}
19.2SHOTS PG15.4

How Sydney FC Can Win:

Both sides look finely poised for this matchup on paper, as their statistics are very similar.

Expect this game to see high strings of possession and passing, which will generate many chances for both sides.

Ufuk Talay has remained adamant that his team must continue to generate opportunities for him to stay satisfied, as reflected in Sydney FC’s 15 goals in six games.

The Victory, Glory and Roar all exposed City’s fragmented defence with the absence of Aziz Behich due to his transfer to Saudi Arabia. The teams have spread them wide, cut the ball into the centre, or exposed gaps by shooting or scoring from outside the box.

Fabio Gomes fighting for the ball

Sydney FC have 21.4 tackles compared to 17.5 for City; they must keep that statistic to stop the fierce Melbourne attack of Maclaren, Tilio, Nabbout and Leckie.  

How Melbourne City Can Win:

With Leckie returning from injury and joining fellow Socceroos Tilio and MacLaren, City will have a fully fit and star-studded side once again.

Melbourne City have more passes per game than the Sky Blues, so expect them to take a more possession-based strategy going into this match.

They have fewer shots on target than the Sky Blues, but they are more clinical, with 6.1 shots from 15.4 attempts per game.

Although Melbourne City have slumped in form over recent weeks, they have shown their quality, especially against Adelaide last month, where they won 1-0 after a defensive masterclass that saw none of Adelaide’s 25 shots find the back of the net.

Last Time Out:

Sydney FC last faced Melbourne City in November, where they were defeated 2-0 in Melbourne, following goals from Steven Ugarkovic and Jamie Maclaren. The Sky Blues did build some attacking momentum in the second half, but the City defence was solid.

Ufuk Talay has come in since then, seeing his team score 29 goals compared to the 24 of the Melbourne-based side.

Rhyan Grant vs Melbourne City last outing

Team News:

Sydney FC will welcome back Joel King after he returned to full training with the team. After picking up a foot injury last month, he has a high chance to make the extended squad for this clash. 

The Sky Blues will continue without Jack Rodwell and Aaron Gurd, although their return is imminent. Pat Wood will also remain sidelined after sustaining an ankle injury against Central Coast.

Melbourne City will have to hope that left-back Scott Galloway will be fit to play against the Sky Blues after he came off injured on Saturday night. 

What They Said: Joel King

“It’s going to be a huge game. They have a lot of attacking threat, coming on and off the bench.

“It’s going to be a tough gig to keep them quiet, but I think the way we press and the energy we have on the field, I have no doubt that we’re capable of getting the three points.”

Match Details:

Sydney FC v Melbourne City
Isuzu UTE A-League Round 18
Saturday 24th February, 2024
Allianz Stadium, Sydney, NSW
Kick-off: 5:30pm AEDT
Gates Open: 4:30pm AEDT
Broadcast Live: Paramount+ and 10Bold
Join the Conversation: #SYDvMCY & #SydneyIsSkyBlue