Decimated Melbourne City squad creates opportunities in FFA Cup

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The upcoming FFA Cup quarter-final between Melbourne City and Wellington Phoenix is effectively an unknown quantity following weeks of extraordinary disruptions.

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At first glance, Wednesday night’s clash doesn’t offer a particularly tantalising prospect.

The defending A-League Men’s champions are hosting a struggling Wellington team who have lost their last four A-League Men’s matches.

The nomadic Phoenix have the odds stacked against them this season, again finding themselves unable to return to New Zealand indefinitely.

Wellington are a team relying on youth to supplement a squad heavily limited by circumstance, suggesting a mid-week cup tie would offer a distinct advantage to their better-resourced opponents.

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However, things have not been travelling smoothly at Melbourne City either in recent weeks.

Patrick Kisnorbo’s squad has been ravaged by Covid-19.

Multiple matches, including this cup tie, have had to be postponed due to City’s lack of available players.

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Kisnorbo did not shy away from how drastically his team has been compromised by the unfortunate circumstances.

“It’s been crazy,” he said.

“We’ve had maybe only five players that haven’t had Covid.”

To have nearly every member of City’s 23-players squad contract the virus in such a short space of time creates an unenviable prospect for the City coach.

Kisnorbo refused to offer any clarity on which players would be in the squad, let alone starting the match, considering the uncertainty of the situation.

The only certainty is that a significant portion of Wednesday night’s team will have had their training severely limited due to isolation requirements.

“Some of the boys have only been training for two days,” Kisnorbo said.

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Nonetheless, City’s coach opted to view this week’s FFA Cup as a potential opportunity for fringe players to feature heavily and stake their claim for more regular playing time.

“It could be an opportunity for players to come into the side and get a chance to play,” he said.

“The main thing is having players who are healthy and hungry.”

In that sense, the game against Wellington becomes an intriguing prospect regarding City’s team selection.

Young players will likely be relied upon, as more experienced members of the squad may need more time to prepare for upcoming league games.

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Ever the pragmatist, Kisnorbo is focused on sticking to his processes and overcoming the challenge laid before him.

“We have to adapt,” he said.

“We approach Wednesday’s game like every other game.”

From Wellington’s perspective, a comparatively weak City team will offer a golden opportunity to reach a first ever FFA Cup semi-final.

Phoenix have only reported two positive Covid cases in their squad, whilst experienced striker Gary Hooper will once again be available for selection.

Ufuk Talay’s team are desperate to reverse their recent fortunes and perhaps knocking City out of the cup will inspire a return to form ahead of a busy January.

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Ultimately, Wednesday night is shaping up to be a major opportunity for someone.

The only question is: who will take it?

Feature Image Credit: Melbourne City FC

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Oscar Rutherford
Sports tragic studying Law/Arts at Monash University. Second-best paid Oscar working in football who has been to China.

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