Key Battles: The match-ups which could decide the Grand Final
There's a script waiting to be written when the Hyundai A-League Grand Final takes place between Sydney FC and Melbourne City, the two best teams of the 2019/20 campaign.
As Sunday afternoon creeps into twilight and then into night that script will be written aided by the players who steal the show, detailing the game-defining acts which help one side prevail over another to claim the Hyundai A-League's ultimate prize.
City finished second in the regular season behind the Sky Blues and both sides proved they were worthy of their positions by progressing to the Grand Final.
With stellar strikers at either end, two goalkeepers in red-hot form and a combustible midfield battle set to dictate which side takes a stranglehold of the contest, there will be key battles all over the park which could decide who comes out on top at Bankwest Stadium.
We've taken a look at both Sydney FC and Melbourne City to bring you the key battles of the Hyundai A-League Grand Final.
GRAND FINAL PREVIEW: Sydney FC v Melbourne City
STATS PREVIEW: City aim for feat last achieved by Postecoglou's Roar
Brillante v Brattan: The tussle for ascendancy begins in the engine room
Both Josh Brillante and Luke Brattan are preparing to take their place in City and Sydney's respective starting line-up's with the intention of breaking the hearts of their former teammates and fans.
The players switched sides ahead of the 2019/20 campaign; Brillante made the move from Sydney FC's Championship-winning side to join challengers City and now has the opportunity to win his second Grand Final in as many seasons in new colours.
Brillante and Brattan will go head-to-head in the battle to dominate the middle of the park – a facet of play both City and Sydney FC aim to control in every game.
When the sides last met in early August, both players shared similar statistics: Brattan had 82 touches, played 65 passes at 86.2% accuracy, made three tackles and won six of 12 duels while Brillante had 69 touches, laid 60 passes at an accuracy of 88.3%, made two tackles and won four of seven duels.
In a battle between two stylistically alike players, even a minimal advantage crafted by one over another could prove vital in winning the midfield battle in this Grand Final showdown.
Ninkovic v Noone: The game-changers operating in dangerous areas
As players like Brattan and Brillante fight to assert themselves on the contest with a considered and controlled performance throughout 90 minutes of play, City's Craig Noone and Sydney's Milos Ninkovic will hunt for key moments alone to leave their mark.
Noone and Ninkovic possess X factor qualities capable of deciding the contest in a split second of brilliance. Ninkovic has displayed this facet of his play in big games regularly throughout his time in Sky Blue and Noone will be hoping to step up in his first Hyundai A-League Grand Final.
In the two Semi-Finals leading into Sunday's big show, Ninkovic scored first in Sydney's 2-0 win over Perth while Noone crafted City's second and match-sealing goal late on against Western United.
Noone went largely unsighted throughout the game but made his mark when his side needed it most. The Englishman likely to be provided even less of a chance to shine against a steely Sky Blues defence and that puts imperative importance on his ability to grab those chances when they arise, or risk Ninkovic showing him how it's done down the other end.
Le Fondre v Good: A red-hot striker meets an imposing enforcer
Adam Le Fondre played chaser to Melbourne City's Jamie Maclaren all season long in the race for the Golden Boot, now the Englishman has the chance to have the last laugh against City's spearhead by guiding Sydney to their second Championship in as many seasons.
But Le Fondre will be tasked with netting against a defensive line led by Curtis Good, who shone for City in the Semi-Final triumph against Western United.
Good, along with Austrian defender Richard Windbichler, Harrison Delbridge and Nathaniel Atkinson, repelled wave after wave of pressure from the Green and Black with help from the in-form Tom Glover in goal to give City the chance to clinch victory, which they took late in the game.
Good is City's defensive conductor; his 1,775 passes for the season are second to only Perth Glory's Neil Kilkenny's 1,797. He's made more blocks and has a higher tackle success rate than any of his teammates in City's defensive line.
If Le Fondre is to become a key figure in this contest he'll have to find a way past Good and a City defence which showed terrific composure and solidity in their last outing.
Maclaren v Redmayne: City's talisman faces experienced foe as he attacks final frontier
Jamie Maclaren has showed a constant ability to break games apart throughout a stellar 2019/20 campaign in which he has 23 goals in 24 games.
But as he prepares to play his first Hyundai A-League Grand Final he faces his toughest challenge to date, when he goes head-to-head with Sky Blues gloveman Andrew Redmayne.
Redmayne was the hero in last season's Grand Final. Two Perth Glory strikers tried and failed to beat him in a penalty shootout as he kept Brendon Santalab and Andy Keogh's spot kicks out to hand the Sky Blues a fourth Hyundai A-League Championship.
It's a challenge Maclaren has never faced in his career, but it would be only fitting for the 27-year-old Golden Boot winner to rise to that challenge and cap off a season in which he's been consistently unstoppable.
Hyundai A-League Grand Final 2020
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