W-League Grand Final 2015/16 Preview: Melbourne City

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The end of the 2015/16 Westfield W-League season is upon us. Can the unconquered Melbourne City go all the way and claim the double at their first attempt?

The Story So Far…

Since July, when Melbourne City announced Matildas co-captain Lisa De Vanna as the club’s first ever signing, it has been nothing but an upwards trajectory for the W-League’s newest side. Following this came the signings of Matildas stars Laura Alleway, Steph Catley and Larissa Crummer to name but a few whilst the international trio of Jen Beattie, Jess Fishlock and Kim Little certainly had the hype machine running by Round One.

However, not even the most hardened of cynics anticipated the result of their first match, a 6-0 drubbing of perennial W-League powerhouse Sydney FC away from home. City followed this up by flexing their depth with a 2-1 win in the first ever W-League Melbourne Derby despite missing all of their Matildas and the aforementioned international trio. A 4-0 win in Perth was followed by a clash with Canberra United in Gosford where City demonstrated their true strength with a 4-2 victory despite spending most of the second half a player down.

Comfortable wins over Adelaide (2-0), Brisbane (4-0) and in the second Melbourne Derby (4-0 again) had City stuck to the roof of the table. They then fought past a stubborn Newcastle outfit (1-0) before strolling past Perth with another 4-0 win. City were then able to dispose of Brisbane, Western Sydney and Sydney FC despite the latter putting up the strongest fight of any team this season in a 2-1 defeat in Melbourne. The final victory capped off a perfect season points wise with an astounding goal difference of +34 demonstrating their irresistible style of football. They were nearly shocked by a valiant Brisbane outfit in their Semi Final, however, taken all the way to penalties before clinically converting all five spot kicks and booking themselves a home Grand Final.

They’ll beat Sydney because…

Firepower. Never has the W-League seen a team with so many varied attacking options of this quality. The poaching efforts of Larissa Crummer stood out as she won the W-League golden boot with 11 goals but the efforts of the likes of Kim Little and Mariana Tabain can hardly be forgotten as they finished second and equal third respectively.

On top of those three, there is the ever present danger of Lisa De Vanna and her pace in behind, as well as Beattie Goad who is starting to work more end product out of her plentiful talent. Jess Fishlock should she play will be vital and Steph Catley shouldn’t be counted out either. With 38 goals over 13 games this season, Sydney may be unable to cope.

They’ll lose to Sydney because…

They can be frustrated. Brisbane showed in their Semi Final on the weekend that if you are able to get plenty of numbers behind the ball and clog up City’s attacking half then you can keep a cleansheet, or at least keep the goals to a minimum.

If Sydney can grab an early goal through some of their impressive counter attacking options then the pressure on City will grow exponentially throughout the game. They are rightfully heavy favourites but that expectation after a nearly flawless season could start to play on the minds of even their most seasoned performers, should things not go to plan.

Will they win the W-League Championship…

Almost definitely. They have passed every test this season with flying colours to this point. Coupled with the amount of players they have with big game experience from Asian Cups to World Cups to European and US leagues and it is very difficult to see them falling at the final hurdle.

Best moment of the season so far…

In Round Four City travelled to Gosford to take on Canberra United who had, despite a poor first match or two, started to show why many had them picked as the team most able to halt the Melburnian juggernaut. Early goals from Tabain and Crummer had City in complete control early on before Ashleigh Sykes broke through to bring Canberra within a goal. Aivi Luik added a third before half time but the game seemed to take a turn in the second half when De Vanna was sent off after an altercation with Nicole Begg. Shortly afterwards Michelle Heyman scored to make it 3-2 with half an hour to play. A player down and backs to wall City were not only able to hold firm against a Canberra side that would go on to finish second comfortably, but they even added a fourth goal through Kim Little to round out the 4-2 victory and cement City as the team to beat.

Key Player…

Kim Little. The 25 year old Scot has lived up to the hype after joining on loan from Seattle Reign with eight goals in nine games and a number of assists to add to that. Little possesses a touch of class that is up there with the best in the world and her finishing ability and her ability to see and execute the perfect pass could be the difference on the day.

Limiting her input will be key for Sydney FC but no team has found a way to do that just yet.

Injuries and suspensions…

At the time of writing Jess Fishlock has neither been 100% confirmed although City coach Joe Montemurro is confident that the Welsh international will be fit despite coming off with a hamstring issue in the semi-final.

Prediction…

It’s hard to see Sydney denying City the chance to complete a near flawless season however hard they will push them. 2-1 City.

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