Melbourne City Erick Mombaerts is happy with how his side’s season is going so far, but insists their goals remain unachieved as they prepare to face a fast and furious Adelaide United side.
City sits second on the A-League table heading into Tuesday evening’s meeting with the Reds; riding the crest of a wave birthed from a relatively comfortable 2-0 win over Premiers Sydney FC in their previous fixture.
Should Mombaerts’ side secure another three points, it would be enough to guarantee them second-place on the ladder come the end of the season: the highest placing in the club’s short history.
Combined with the historical benefits that a top-two finish confers upon the chances of a team lifting an A-League championship and the Asian Champions League qualification slot that accompanies the placing – a longstanding goal of the City Football Group – it would be a feather in the cap of the French manager in what is his first season in Australia.
Mombaerts, though, would not be caught up in the sense of occasion.
“The most important thing is to achieve our goal,” he said. “I’m very happy with this season, but I will be very happy if we achieve our goals.”
“When we started the season [ACL qualification] was one of our goals, [as was] to try to win something and to try to be higher in this table.
“It’s really important that Melbourne City shows that we have improved, that we have progressed – that is the most important thing.
“Yes, I’m very happy if we have a chance to play in the Champions League, it’s very important to have more experiences, to help the players to progress. It is important.”
With the game against City representing their final fixture of the regular season campaign, Interim Head Coach Carl Veart’s Adelaide sits right on the bubble of finals football – two points clear of seventh-placed Western United and two-adrift of fifth-placed Perth Glory.
Undefeated since the A-League resumed from its pandemic-enforced break, an early Jordan Elsey strike helped the club to a 1-1 draw against Sydney FC in their last hitout, a game in which a win would have reportedly removed the interim tag from Veart’s title.
That contest was proceeded by a 5-3 win over a struggling Perth Glory, 1-1 draw with Wellington Phoenix and a 1-0 win over Brisbane Roar.
Nonetheless, with Western set to retain three games in hand over Adelaide following Tuesday evening’s contest, the South Australians will enter knowing full well they need all three points on offer to bolster their chances of playing finals football.
“They’ve changed a little defensively, but they [have mostly stayed] in the same way, so I’m not surprised with what I’m seeing in some games,” Mombaerts observed on the post-pandemic Reds.
“Their only changes are that they are less focused on man-marking – they are more mixed defensive organisation. But they keep the same high gear.
“We need to be aware of moments of transition first but, to me, we also don’t want to change our style of play.
“We want to stay focused on what is our strengths and what is our game style and just a little bit aware of the strengths of Adelaide because they also have good strengths.
“We couldn’t change, and we don’t want to change our style of play. So, if we want to improve and we want to stay focused on what we can do and put more problems to the opposition then they put to us.
“We need, firstly, we need to keep possession. It’s our style of play but it’s also about turnovers, we need to be well organised in these moments, which are so important in general, but especially against this team.
“We need to be well organised; we need to anticipate a lot of situations. But we are okay on this because it is our style of play.”
Having returned to Melbourne to be with his partner for the birth of their first child, Scott Jamieson is set to miss Tuesday evening’s game but Rostyn Griffiths has completed his mandatory quarantine period and will be available for selection.
Quizzed on who would replace his departed captain at left-back, Mombaerts raised Scott Galloway and Nathaniel Atkinson as two potential candidates.