After two failed attempts to get out of the Victoria and a 14-day quarantine period once they arrived in NSW, City will be the last side in the A-League to kick a ball in anger since the covid restart.

In total, it will have been 131 days between their 2-1 defeat against Newcastle Jets back in March and their game against Sydney FC on Saturday.

Brushing off months of rust with a game against the newly crowned premiers is a baptism of fire for Maclaren and his teammates but the City striker – in his own personal battle with Sky Blues Adam Le Fondre for the Golden Boot – won’t have it any other way.

It’s been a difficult period,” Maclaren said today. “We’ve had our programs in the off-season to make sure we come back in nick because we weren’t sure we were going to be able to finish the season.

“The minute we were able to finish the season, we were able to come back and train really hard. We’ve not been able to play but we’re raring to go for this Saturday and we can’t wait to be out there because it’s been a long time between games. 

“I think you wouldn’t want [to resume] any other way. You want to play against the best, face the tough oppositions and [Sydney] are clear leaders and premiers of this season. If someone said to me. 'You’ve only got one game to play who do you want to play?' I’d say Sydney.

“We can’t make any excuses that we haven’t played a game, we need to go really hard on Saturday and get that match fitness because we’ve got two more games and then finals so we need to be hitting our straps from the first half onwards.”