Hyundai A-League season preview: Melbourne City FC

After a Hyundai A-League 2016/17 Season that promised so much but finished with a whimper, City fans are desperate for their side to deliver on its undoubted potential.

Three straight appearances in the Finals Series can't be scoffed at, but they have yet to appear in a Grand Final. Is 2017/18 the season when City finally break their duck?

INS AND OUTS

Ins: Eugene Galekovic, Scott Jamieson, Iacopo La Rocca, Stefan Mauk, Bart Schenkeveld, Marcelo Carrusca, Marcin Budzinski.

Outs: Corey Gameiro, Steve Kuzmanovski, Josh Rose, Nicolas Colazo, Thomas Sorensen, Paulo Retre, Ivan Franjic, Anthony Caceres.

bartTHE BURNING QUESTIONS

Who replaces Bruno Fornaroli's goals?

How big an impact will the new overseas players have?

Can City finally deliver on their undoubted potential?

LESSONS LEARNT FROM LAST SEASON

Don't stumble with the finish line in sight.

City spent much of the first two months of 2016/17 in the top two and were comfortably third with a month to go before losing three of their last four games to finish fourth.

They then couldn't climb out of the trough they had placed themselves in, meekly succumbing at home to Perth Glory in the Elimination Final.

We saw one of the games of the season in rd 27, as Perth Glory beat Melbourne City 5-4 at nib.

ROAD AHEAD

City host the season's opening fixture against Brisbane Roar at AAMI Park before a mouth-watering Melbourne derby at Etihad Stadium in week two.

Wellington Phoenix then pay a visit, before City leave their home city for the first time, meeting Adelaide United to round out the first month of their campaign. 

EXPECTED STRENGTHS

City certainly won't take a backward step to anyone in the midfield exchanges.

In Luke Brattan, Stefan Mauk and last season's player of the year Neil Kilkenny they possess three of the most combative midfielders in the Hyundai A-League, while the additions of Pole Marcin Budzinski and Argentine Marcelo Carrusca further strengthen and creativity in the engine-room.

If classy Dane Michael Jakobsen can quickly form a partnership with Dutch defender Bart Schenkeveld, City will be harder to break down than in previous seasons where they have conceded far too many goals to be genuine Premiership contenders.

POTENTIAL WEAKNESS

Bruno Fornaroli's absence through injury is a massive blow; the Uruguayan has been simply superb in his first two Hyundai A-League seasons, scoring an incredible 42 goals in 56 games.

Without him there's major doubt over where the goals might come from, especially if Tim Cahill can't replicate his 11-goal debut season.

Tim Cahill (Caltex Socceroos)

TACTICAL APPROACH

Without Fornaroli, the attacking approach will have to be altered with much of City's attacking strategy understandably based around him in the past two seasons.

City's best moments last season – including the eye-catching derby win in round two – came from the combination of a high-press without the ball and slick passing movements when in possession.

The likes of Mauk, Brattan and Kilkenny will look to win the ball in the middle of the park and quickly unleash those further forward.

BREAKOUT STAR

Braedyn Crowley. The 20 year-old striker will sense a chance to push his claims for some significant minutes having signed his first full-time contract after joining City on a scholarship deal last year.

He's quick, scores goals and has previous Hyundai A-League experience with Newcastle and may well fill a hole in Warren Joyce's front-line, even as an impact player.

Braedyn Crowley