Season preview: Melbourne City

The potential progress of the club formerly known as Melbourne Heart could be the story of the 2014-15 Hyundai A-League season.

Melbourne City have already surpassed Heart's best membership tally - at the time of writing they have over 8,000 - and with David Villa, Robi Koren and Damien Duff on their books, John van 't Schip's side looks very promising.

But in a concern for the rebranded club, they are coming off a last-place finish last season, failing to earn a win until round 15, while they have only won one of five fixtures against Hyundai A-League opposition in pre-season.

THE BURNING QUESTIONS

How will Villa settle in?

Less than two weeks out from round one, the former Barcelona and Atletico Madrid striker still hasn't arrived in Australia. It seems doubtful Villa will be ready for City's opening game at Sydney FC - if for no other reason than he has little time to gel with his new team-mates - and if the 32-year-old doesn't settle it could severely hamper Van 't Schip's title aspirations.

Can City grab Melbourne's attention?

In red and white stripes, this club never challenged Melbourne Victory off the pitch but with big stars and a growing membership base, City could be ready for a big season in white and sky blue.

LESSONS LEARNT FROM LAST SEASON

Under John Aloisi, Heart based their 2013-14 squad around Orlando Engelaar Michael Mifsud and Harry Kewell. Engelaar broke his leg, Mifsud failed and Kewell struggled with injuries but this season van 't Schip looks to have more depth with City.

ROAD AHEAD

Having already been eliminated from the Westfield FFA Cup and with no Asian Champions League distractions, City will be able to completely focus on the Hyundai A-League throughout the campaign.

A tough start will see City travel to Sydney and Brisbane in the first five rounds, as well as taking on Victory and Adelaide United, but the biggest challenge could be how they handle the departure of Villa midway through the campaign when he returns to New York City.

EXPECTED STRENGTHS

Van 't Schip looks to have assembled one of the more impressive midfield groups in Australia with Paartalu, Mooy, Koren and Duff providing plenty of quality, while Villa could arguably be the best player the Hyundai A-League has seen.

POTENTIAL WEAKNESS

After six seasons each involved in the Hyundai A-League, neither Andrew Redmayne nor Tando Velaphi have convinced as a top-line goalkeeper.

TACTICAL APPROACH

City look set to play 4-3-3, maintaining van 't Schip's pro-active approach with attacking full-backs and a fluid midfield that has defined the club's short history.

But fans will be hoping that the recruitment of the likes of Villa, Koren, Duff and Mooy ensures there is more cutting edge in the final third than in previous seasons.

BREAKOUT STAR

While Mooy was a regular performer at Western Sydney Wanderers, the versatile midfielder missed out on some opportunities due to Tony Popovic's rotation policy.

Don't be surprised if Mooy goes to another level in Melbourne, as the former St Mirren man looks to be central to van 't Schip's plans.

NIGHTMARE HEADLINE

"Villa abandons City after disastrous first month"

FAN’S SAY

DID YOU KNOW?

Melbourne City midfielder Erik Paartalu was approached to represent Estonia - the land of his paternal grandparents - as an 18-year-old. 

Prediction

Aidan Ormond: Might just sneak into the six. 

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