Melbourne City wrapped up the W-League premiership in excellent fashion on Thursday evening, downing Western Sydney Wanderers 4-0.
Heading into its final game of the regular season next Sunday having conceded just three goals all campaign, coach Rado Vidošić’s side has also added a lethal attacking edge, winning three of its past four games 4-0.
It has reached the point that perhaps the only thing capable of stopping City from lifting its fourth W-League championship in five years is itself.
“It’s a really exciting time when you don’t have to worry so much about what the opposition is going to bring. We’re just really confident around our own game,” defender Emma Checker told The New Daily.
The run home
With City’s premiership and the penultimate round of the W-League season now complete, top-four scenarios are now becoming clearer.
Second-placed Sydney FC is guaranteed a finals spot, but its 2-1 loss to Perth Glory on Saturday leaves it at risk of being overhauled by Melbourne Victory should the Victorians defeat the Sky Blues next week.
Victory thumped Newcastle Jets 7-0 on Sunday.
But while a win may take Victory to second, a loss or draw could see it fall out of finals altogether should Western Sydney defeat Perth and Brisbane beat a City side with nothing to play for.
Western Sydney, likewise, must win to ensure it plays finals football.
Brisbane needs to beat City, hope for Western Sydney and/or Victory to draw or lose, and for a healthy enough goal difference swing to achieve an unlikely finals berth.
On the A-League bubble
It is still too early to declare the finals aspirations of most A-League sides dead – apologies to the Central Coast Mariners and Jets – but a clearer picture is also beginning to emerge.
Adelaide United and Brisbane Roar both loom as the most likely sides to continue to occupy fifth and sixth at the end of the season, based on current form.
Unlikely 5-2 winners over Adelaide on Friday night, the Wanderers are suddenly undefeated in three games under caretaker coach Jean-Paul de Marigny and could potentially sneak in.
Most unlikely of the bubble sides are the Victorians.
Winners of just one game in its past eight, Western United’s early season promise has given way to injuries, squad upheaval and poor results.
A lack of a proper home ground advantage has also begun to take its toll, which is unfortunate given that next week’s home fixture against Central Coast looms as being season-defining.
Across town, Victory has not won an A-League fixture since January 5 – when Marco Kurz was still in charge – and faces two crucial games against the Reds and Sydney FC in coming weeks.
The prodigal son
The van’t Schip name is a well-known one in Bundoora, with John van’t Schip – currently the boss of the Greece national team – coach of Melbourne Heart between 2010 and 2012 and Melbourne City from 2013 to 2017.
But John’s son, Davey van’t Schip, has also had a role in the club’s academy for a number of years, and The New Daily understands that this year he is set for an expanded role with the club’s NPL Under-20s and will, on occasion, assist with the NPL seniors in 2020.
Though on its own a very minor thing, the presence of a familiar name like van’t Schip, plus the fielding of childhood Heart fans like 19-year-old Stefan Colakovski, are important steps for a club that is still fighting to establish its own ‘soul’.
Olympic qualifier shifted
The Matildas’ Olympic qualification campaign has received a further reshuffle, but thankfully one nowhere near as drastic as their previous switch from Wuhan to Sydney.
The home leg of the Matildas’ playoff with Vietnam, from which the winner will qualify for Tokyo 2020, has had its kick-off time moved forward to the “family-friendly” time of 6.30pm (AEDT) on March 6 at Newcastle’s McDonald Jones Stadium.
Flexin’ on them
Briefly, a second must be taken to appreciate NPL Victoria lethal weapon, Brandon Barnes.
The Dandenong Thunder captain scored his third goal of the season on Sunday when, taking advantage of Melbourne Knights outfielder Joey Franjic being forced to don the goalkeeping gloves after a red card, he drilled in a 94th-minute free-kick to level things up at 3-3.
His subsequent celebration, flexing for the camera in a manner reminiscent of former WWF star Earthquake [John Tenta], reinforced his cult status among NPL fans.
Friday: Wellington Phoenix 2-0 Western United; Western Sydney Wanderers 5-2 Adelaide United
Saturday: Brisbane Roar 1-1 Perth Glory; Newcastle Jets 1-1 Melbourne Victory
Sunday: Central Coast Mariners 0-3 Sydney FC
Thursday: Western Sydney Wanderers 0-4 Melbourne City
Saturday: Sydney FC 1-2 Perth Glory
Sunday: Newcastle Jets 0-7 Melbourne Victory; Brisbane Roar 5-0 Canberra United.