In what has been one of the tightest A-League finals races in recent memory, one team’s recent form has put distance between itself and the rest of the competition.
Having not lost since the very beginning of April, Melbourne City now sits eight points clear at the top of the A-League table. Not only that, City’s goal difference is far better than the rest of the league with their +25 goals the highest by 17.
Adelaide United on the other hand, has entered a tough patch of form which has seen it go goalless in its last two and winless for almost a whole month.
Despite this, the Reds remain within striking distance of a top two position and coach Carl Veart is looking forward to the challenge of taking on the league leaders.
“They’ve played a really good brand of football this year and I’m really looking forward to testing ourselves against the strongest team in the league,” he said.
“The table’s really congested so you’ve got to start getting points otherwise you might get left behind and then you’re in a fight to get those final spots in the six.
“We don’t want to be in that, we want to be higher up and it’s in our hands.”
Comparing United’s recent form in front of goal is like comparing chalk and cheese when looking at the firepower Melbourne City possesses.
City have found the net 17 times in their last five outings including a 7-0 rout of rivals Melbourne Victory and the man at the heart of the attack is Jamie Maclaren.
The 27-year-old currently has a goals-per-game ratio of higher than one and his 22 goals is double that of the man coming second in the Golden Boot race, Macarthur’s Matt Derbyshire (11).
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Veart knows that Maclaren is a threat but says focussing on the forward himself is not the key to stopping him as the battle in the middle of the park looms as an important one.
“His record speaks for itself and the amount of goals he’s scored is tremendous,” Veart said.
“You can’t give him too many opportunities because he’s deadly in and around the box.
“It’s about limiting those opportunities for City to get into our box and if we can limit them getting in there then Jamie doesn’t get as many opportunities.”
Someone that may be able to help United’s plight to stop City is defender Michael Jakobsen who returns to the squad this week after training with the main group for the past fortnight. Veart mentioned that the former skipper is unlikely to start but is a fantastic inclusion into the squad.
Reds fans will also welcome the return of youngster Mo Toure who has served his one game suspension received in the home game against Western United.
With United set to play four games in just 10 days, Veart knows that having as many fit players as possible is going to be key in his side’s push for a top two finish.
“We’re getting close now to having everyone available,” he said.
“Javi (Lopez) will be available for the game on Sunday as well so it’s really good because we’ve got very congested fixtures coming up.
“We need everyone available to play and everyone will get game time in this next couple of weeks.”
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