Continental success key if Melbourne City experiment is to pay off

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Let me set the scene for you, it’s the 1st of November, 2014.

Western Sydney Wanderers have beaten Saudi Arabian football club Al-Hilal 1-0 at home in the first leg of the AFC Champions League final the week prior. All the Wanderers have to do is hold on. As the final whistle is blown, Ante Covic completes a man of the match performance between the sticks keeping a clean sheet.

They’ve done it! The Wanderers are champions of Asia, the first Australian club ever to accomplish the feat.

The manager of the Wanderers at the time, Tony Popovic, famously said in an interview with the ABC, “We were called a small club yesterday, today we are the biggest in Asia.”

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In that same interview, Popovic also discussed the lack of facilities the Wanderers had compared to the other teams in the competition.

“We don’t have the resources or the funds that some of these other teams have but we have something that money can’t buy, the desire to win, the resilience to play for each other and do anything we can to win. No money can buy that,” he exclaimed.

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Fast forward eight years…the City Football Group have invested heavily in Melbourne City building a top-of-the-line training facility and football academy in Melbourne’s south-east. Since then, they became owners of Melbourne City, they’ve won multiple domestic trophies, but have only managed to participate in the AFC Champions League once.

Admittedly, they were very unlucky not to get out of the group stage after going undefeated in their group. But still, it’s time for Melbourne City to take the next step.

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They have the best squad in the league that includes several Australian international players, alongside some high-quality imports such as Valon Berisha. In addition to this they have a fantastic coaching staff headed by Patrick Kisnorbo.

Last year, in the AFC Champions League, Melbourne City were two goals short of advancing to the round of 16 which would have led them to face Kitchee SC from Hong Kong, who they most likely would have beaten.

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Unfortunately, due to China’s COVID-19 lockdown policy, their teams withdrew from the tournament. Because of this the competition now had an odd number of clubs participating with certain groups only allowing one team to progress rather than two. This led to Melbourne City reaching a points total that in any other year would have qualified them for the next round of the tournament

So, in 2022 Melbourne City is in their prime for continental success, they have a star striker who scores goals for fun and a great centre-back pairing in Curtis Good and Thomas Lam. They also could have the added benefit of a fantastic import, number 10, Valon Berisha – if they are able to keep him for another season. Couple this with coach Patrick Kisnorbo who has been there now for multiple seasons and has developed a style of play that the whole squad are comfortable with – the time is right!

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This A-League Men season, Melbourne City must qualify for the competition again and build upon the groundwork that they set in the previous tournament if they truly want to be known as the best club in Australia.

Feature Image Credit: Melbourne City

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Caydn Foley
Football Fanatic. Journalism student hoping to make this a career. Covering Melbourne City for the 22/23 A-Leagues season.

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