Melbourne City Head Coach Erick Mombaerts is taking lessons from Wellington Phoenix and Newcastle Jets as he plots Sydney FC's downfall.
Now released from quarantine and based out of the Hunter Valley for their three remaining fixtures, City have had the longest wait of any A-League club to return from COVID-19 suspension.
The squad has had to watch on helplessly as Phoenix overtook them and seized second spot on the ladder.
And they will need to get past Premiers Sydney to get enough points on the board to reclaim second, even if striker Jamie Maclaren insists that there was no other side the club would rather be playing.
In City's favour though is that the Sky Blues have not been at their machine-like best since the competition resumed
Forced to come-from-behind against Wellington Phoenix in their first game, Sydney were then downed 2-1 by Newcastle Jets four days later, with the midfield pairing of Steven Ugarkovic and Angus Thurgate helping Carl Robinson’s side ambush the runaway league leaders.
Combined with the sterling efforts of Matti Steinmann in the prior fixture – it was no coincidence that Trent Buhagiar’s match-winning moments of transition arrived after the German was substituted – and an avenue to slaying the league’s Sky Blue leviathan may be presenting itself.
“At the moment we have to recognise that Sydney was and is the best team of the A-League. We couldn’t contest this, because they won the Premiership,” Melbourne City Head Coach Erick Mombaerts said today.
“Their strength is that they have a good collective style, this team was built for a few years so they know each other, the style, their strengths. Also, it’s a team that controls… this team wants to control the pace of the game and wants to control the game with a good technical level.
“If we want to… if we let them play at their pace, they are maybe better.
“We need to find some solutions to change some things and after Newcastle have shown a good example, they played an intense game, they press them a lot and maybe it’s also a way that we can use.
“We know we need to dominate the midfield. Also, you know Sydney, with their specific system, they try also to have large numbers in the middle, so we have to challenge on this and we also have to create some overload and dominate in the middle.
“We have practised a lot on this, and I expect we will be better in these situations. We will continue to work on this, dominating in the middle with our midfield.”
Having earmarked his defence, particularly in moments of transition and against set pieces, as areas that were worked on during the A-League’s hiatus, Mombaerts confirmed on Friday that Curtis Good and Richard Windbichler would start at the heart of his backline against the Sky Blues.
“We were focused on this, especially defensive set pieces, we are focused also on some tactical things we can improve,” said Mombaerts.
“But now we have to see what’s going on in games. I think what we want to improve, what we want to practice more, we have done. We will see now in a competitive game.
“We’ll [judge lineups] game after game. In our style of play, it’s very important to give confidence to our team, give confidence about tactics but also give confidence to our players.
"In some positions, we don’t have too many options to change, but also, we have to see with injuries or we have to see about this.
“But at the moment, to re-start, we have [to play] the best team we can set up.”