Melbourne City Head Coach Erick Mombaerts admits the absence of club captain Scott Jamieson needs a “solution”, but insists his side will keep improving for the finals.
City will conclude the most successful regular season in club history when they take on Western United at Jubilee Stadium on Wednesday evening with second place on the A-League table and a much sought after Asian Champions League already secured.
Their 44 points tallied so far already represents a new highwater mark for the club, while the 13 wins has equalled their record 2017/18 campaign.
But they go into the Western United fixture, as well as next week’s semi-final and a potential Grand Final, without their captain Scott Jamieson.
The 31-year-old left-back has started 22 games in 2019/20, with round 23’s 1-1 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers the only time he failed to run out the full 90 minutes, but his season is now over after opting to remain in Melbourne to be with his partner and newborn son Cooper.
Beyond his contributions from both a leadership and defensive perspective this campaign, Jamieson also increasingly played a role in City’s offensive plans: tucking into the midfield when his side have the ball to provide them with an overload in the middle of the park.
This important role was clear in the 2-0 win over Sydney FC in their first game back after the restart with City's midfield dominance propelling them to a comfortable win.
“At the beginning of this period, we had to face a lot of issues and it's another one – the first one was with Markel Susaeta,” Mombaerts said this afternoon.
“But in this situation what can we do? Because Jamo [Jamieson], if he came back, he would have to be in quarantine for two weeks, we’re not sure he would be ready if we played the final. It’s better for him to stay and to help his wife in this difficult moment.
“We have to find another solution.”
The path to finding that answer, though, doesn’t exactly begin with the easiest of assignments.
Wednesday night foes Western have won four of their five games since the A-League resumed, with only a defeat against a red-hot Newcastle Jets sullying their copybook.
Rudan today admitted the unique challenges City present his side and how he was eager to figure out a way to break through the task ahead.
His counterpart, however, appeared nonplussed at the thought of opponents zeroing in on the style he has continuously championed throughout the campaign.
“Now with video analysis, all coaches can watch and analyse what we try to do,” Mombaerts said.
“But it’s not about the shape and tactics that we use, we can adapt also to the opponent.
“It’s not a big problem for others to know we play with one inverted fullback; it’s more how we can use it better and better. That is what we focus on and practice a lot, so we can use our inverted fullbacks more and better.
“That’s my problem, to make it more difficult to read.”
Mombaerts confirmed Florin Berenguer had picked up a slight calf niggle in training and would not play on Wednesday, set to be replaced in the midfield by Connor Metcalfe. Nathaniel Atkinson, who deputised against Adelaide United, is set to retain his position at left-back.
Also floated was the possibility of Moudi Najjar and Ramy Najjarine replacing the suspended Craig Noone on the left flank of City's attack, with the Frenchman declaring: “It’s a good opportunity for our young players to show their quality.”