‘Grand final’ arrives early

A-League Men Rd 24 - Melbourne City v Perth Glory
Melbourne City bring hot form into their clash against Western Sydney. Picture: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

The “grand final” has come early for Melbourne City, whose A-League season is on the line against Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday.

A loss at CommBank Stadium to the sixth-placed Wanderers will end City’s hopes of playing finals football.

A draw will keep Aurelio Vidmar’s men alive heading into the final round of the regular season, while a win will lift City into the top six and put them in the box seat to contest the finals.

“This is a final for us, it is a grand final, for both teams really,” City coach Vidmar said.

“A win puts you in a better position and a loss really just knocks you out basically.”

“We’ve got to get up for it, have the right mentality and attitude, (with) everyone rolling up their sleeves.”

City are in hot form heading into contest after thrashing a woeful Perth Glory 8-0 at AAMI Park last Sunday.

The win was inspired by a hat-trick from star German playmaker Tolgay Arslan.

“When someone is involved in 20 goal involvements (this season), and can influence a game on a dime, they’re special players with special qualities,” Vidmar said of Arslan.

“He’s definitely been one of the best (players in the competition) for sure.”

A-League Men Rd 24 - Melbourne City v Perth Glory
Tolgay Arslan celebrates after scoring one his three goals against Perth Glory. Picture: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

The Wanderers have tasted defeat in their past two matches, including a last-gasp 2-1 loss to arch-rivals Sydney FC last Saturday.

However, Vidmar said Western Sydney remained “an absolutely dangerous” outfit.

“This is not going to be a blowout by no means,” Vidmar said.

“They’ll be hurting from last week’s derby loss in the last minute so there’s a hell of a lot on the line for both teams.”

While City are fighting for the chance to play in the finals series, third-placed Melbourne Victory are certain to finish in the top six.

However, any slim chance they had of winning the Premier’s Plate ended with last Friday’s 1-0 loss to Wellington Phoenix.

Victory star Daniel Arzani said it was important for his side to build “momentum” heading into next month’s playoffs, starting with a win over Brisbane Roar at AAMI Park on Saturday night.

“The goal for us was trying to make the top two, maybe even potentially finish first … and now that that’s not possible, our focus has shifted to the finals,” Arzani said.

“It’s really important that we go in with good form. It’s going to be a really exciting finals series.

“The A-League’s so unpredictable.”

Victory coach Tony Popovic said his side was keen to make amends for last month’s 3-2 loss to the Roar at Suncorp Stadium.

“It was arguably our worst performance of the year, and we got what we deserved that day with a defeat,” Popovic said.

In Saturday night’s other A-League match, finals-bound teams Macarthur FC and Sydney FC meet at Campbelltown Stadium.