15/04/2024

The Melbourne City squad celebrates after beating Sydney FC earlier this season. (Photo: Melbourne City/Twitter)

Ahead of a crucial finals showdown, City coach Rado Vidosic and captain Emma Checker backed the system which saw them both take and give away three points against Sydney FC this season.

Ahead of a crucial showdown between Sydney FC and Melbourne City, City head coach Rado Vidosic and captain Emma Checker spoke to the media on Thursday morning ahead of the squad’s trip to Sydney.

The of this match winner will go through to host the grand final, while the loser gets a second chance next week to make it against the winner of Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory.

This will be the third time that the sides have met this season, with both sides walking away victorious in their respective home encounters. It is something that is not lost on Vidosic.

“We have analysed both games and we are using those games for preparation for this game,” the coach said.

“But I think a lot of things have changed since we beat them and also since we lost to them.

“Our win against them is the closest to today, so we are going to draw a lot of things from that game but we also need to be aware that we are playing away. That was the first game against them and they were excellent. They were on top of their game.”

For those games, both sides were missing some key players in those encounters because of international commitments. The Matildas Asian Cup campaign took place during the Sydney home game, and New Zealand’s participation in the SheBelieves Cup during the City home game. 

This time around, both squads should be near full strength, with the only absence expected on the City side of things is Holly McNamara, who suffered a season-ending injury during the City home game against Sydney FC.

While Vidosic and Checker both recognised the undeniable talent of the Sydney FC squad, and were full of praise for Friday’s opposition, ultimately the focus is on what they will do in executing their own game plan, and less on how Sydney FC plan their approach to the game.

“We are looking at the game from three moments,” Vidosic said.

“The macro-game, the 11v11, it’s all about the structure [and formation]. The mini-game, [where] the game is played around the ball, maybe 4v4, 5v5, wherever you look, there will be those numbers. The last one is micro-game, it’s one on one.

“When it comes to micro-game, we are trying to outnumber [the] opponent 2v1. For us, it’s irrelevant to what system they play, as long as we can outnumber them. If we are playing with four midfielders, so already we are outnumbering them in that area.

“Then someone needs to help our wing backs to create that overload in wide areas from defensive or offensive point of view. 

“I think we have developed that throughout the season and regardless of what system or formation opponents play, we were able to control the game from our point of view.”

Vidosic also recognises just how important the defence will be in deciding the game for both sides.

“We will have to defend inside the penalty box. We will have to defend high up the pitch. We will have to defend in the middle of the pitch, and also, we have to break their pressure when we are building up from the goalkeeper.”

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One thing that City have had at their disposal this season is the squad’s versatility with the likes of Rhianna Pollicina and Rebekah Stott, who have both slotted in at various positions.

Despite injuries and absences because of international call-ups at different points, it has allowed City to play the style of game it wants to play, and this is by design from the coaching staff, especially during the game itself.

“[The] players have learned their responsibilities. They have fully taken to our principles. You do expect from that point of view that everything is going to be ok,” Vidosic continued.

“They know their positions in macro-game, in our structure. Sometimes it is very important that they make the right decisions in that structure, and then they need to take the right decisions in that mini-game where we try to outnumber opponents. 

“Then the most important thing is to have a good micro-game, so we try to create 2v1 situations when we are attacking and when we are defending. [With] Holly McNamara, Mini [Pollicina], and Stotty as well, she’s starting that micro-game sequence.

“Once they fully started to understand their role and responsibility, their movements, it became much much easier to apply.

“Right now, we are seeing the benefits from it. Keeping in mind that sometimes it’s been a bit harder when you’ve got five players at the back, but it’s been a process of educating our wing-backs how to play more advanced and not to expose our centre-back.”

The Melbourne City squad comes together for a on-field embrace. (Photo: Melbourne City/Twitter)

This was a statement that was echoed by Checker.

“Something I really love about being at this club is we have a very unique brand of football and it’s something we spend a lot of time as a group in learning and understanding,” she said.

“It’s credit to the girls. It can take quite some time to get used to because we don’t just learn our one position.

“We learn everyone’s, and there’s a very unique way of executing every role on the field. I think the positive is now coming into finals, we’re at a point where everyone does have that understanding for every role.

“Whatever happens in the game, whether someone has to change position, cover in a certain moment, we have that awareness for where we need to be, so I think that is something that is really important.”

When asked whether her job as a defender might be made easier by the potential absence of Sydney FC forward Cortnee Vine, Checker once again reiterated that the focus was firmly on the things that City can control.

“They’ve still got so much quality, and that’s a credit to them. Like we were saying earlier, their bench is also full of quality.

“I don’t think a lot changes in terms of how I see it going into the game, whether or not Cortnee is there. That’s not to undermine her quality because she’s a great player, but I think our preparation does remain the same.

“In terms of preparation, as cliché as it is, the biggest thing for us is just focusing on ourselves and being confident in the way that we are able to play.”

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