Can City bear the weight of expectation to beat United to the Grand Final?

Melbourne City and Western United meet in Wednesday evening's Semi-Final with the same goal: reaching a club-first Hyundai A-League Grand Final.

Although they share the same ambition both Melbourne clubs approach the contest under different circumstances and with different pressures on their respective shoulders.

Since their Hyundai A-League arrival ahead of the 2010/11 season City  - then known as Melbourne Heart - have yet to feature in a Grand Final. 

City Football Group's takeover of the club in 2014 brought much excitement along with it of things to come for the club known as Melbourne City from that moment forward, but at Hyundai A-League level the club's expectations have not yet been met.

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LFWWS final

A new era began this season at City under Head Coach Erick Mombaerts.

Jamie Maclaren arrived from German side SV Darmstadt 98 along with Adrián Luna and Craig Noone to bolster City's attacking stocks, while Scott Galloway and Richard Windbichler provided defensive reinforcement.

Josh Brillante joined City from reigning Champions Sydney FC, and being no stranger to a Hyundai A-League Grand Final Brillante will provide invaluable experience in the dressing room ahead of his team's Semi-Final battle with the Green and Black of United. 

Despite the mounting pressure to add silverware to their trophy cabinet the City players, coaching staff and fans alike will take great confidence from their overall performance throughout the season to date in their pursuit of a spot in the Grand Final.

Mombaerts has taken City to a record points tally of 47, bettering their tally of 44 in 2015/16, and achieved the club's best ever finishing position of second on the table, going one better than third where they finished in the 2017/18 campaign.

Turning a Semi-Final berth into a Grand Final win will be no easy feat, but with the club enjoying its best-ever Hyundai A-League campaign there's never been a better time than now for City to clinch the ultimate prize.

LAST TIME OUT: City overcome a depleted United outfit 3-1

In Mark Rudan's United, however, City face an opponent who have quickly become the wildcard left in the deck ahead of the Semi-Finals.

The Hyundai A-League new-boys have been blockbuster all season long; their concoction of players both young and old has clicked of late in an unusual, lively manner which has coincided with a barnstorming run of form as they hurtled into the Semi-Finals. 

In Andrew Durante and Alessandro Diamanti United had two of the top ten oldest starters in any finals game in the history of Australia's national leagues as they toppled Brisbane Roar 1-0 in an Elimination Final.

The experienced pair, together with the Hyundai A-League's record goalscorer Besart Berisha, have led United from the front through the club's first league campaign, to the point now where they're one win away from a shock Grand Final berth.

To get past Brisbane and book a place in the Semi-Finals, United relied on the left boot of their captain Diamanti.

The mercurial Italian encapsulates the developing ethos of the club: he's exciting, he's unpredictable, he's fun, and he's not willing putting a cap on what his side can achieve in the Finals Series. 

"My lifestyle is with a smile on my face, so I wan’t to enjoy my football with a smile - why not?" Diamanti said.

"Always when you have positive vibes, positive things, it’s much better [than] to have negatives.

"I want to enjoy my, maybe one, two last years playing football.

"I want to keep playing with a smile if it's possible. 

Diamanti continued: "We want to enjoy the finals, we want to try to do the best for the finals.

"But I think if we believe in this, we can do something special." 

With the fun-loving, free-spirited Diamanti's leading from the front and a coach in Rudan who has helped foster his squad's fearless motivation to succeed, United approach their Semi-Final contest with a genuine belief of making it to the Grand Final.

But in City they may have just found their match: a hungry side driven by shortcomings of the past to make this opportunity - their best of their history to date - count.

Melbourne City v Western United

When: Wednesday, August 26
Kick-off: 5pm AEST
Venue: Bankwest Stadium
Broadcast: ABC ME delayed at 8.25pm, FOX Sports 507
Stream: MyFootball Live App, Kayo Sports, ABC iView 

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