SEN's The Global Game: Brosque warns City of challenges ahead in Premiership/Championship pursuit

Sydney FC legend Alex Brosque has warned of the difficulty of turning regular-season dominance into a Finals Series triumph as Melbourne City stroll toward clinching a club-first piece of A-League silverware.

City side can seal the Premiers Plate with a win over Central Coast Mariners at AAMI Park on Saturday night, rewarding Patrick Kisnorbo's side for the incredible form produced to date in the 2020/21 A-League campaign.

Golden Boot leader Jamie Maclaren has 25 goals to his name - 12 more than the next closest Matt Derbyshire - which has helped City forge a seven-point gap over Sydney FC in second. The Sky Blues have played a game more than City, and have a goal difference of +10, 18 fewer than what City have put on the board across 22 games.

It's the kind of dominance which reminds former Sydney FC talisman Brosque of his side's 2017/18 A-League campaign, in which his side finished on top of the table with a 14-point gap to the second-placed Newcastle Jets.

But the resulting Finals Series campaign did not go to plan for the imperious Sky Blues - and with key injuries mounting in the City side, Brosque believes there are clubs below the table-toppers lying in wait for when the opportunity comes to strike in the 2020/21 Finals Series. 

Read on as Brosque and Simon Hill discuss City's chances of going all the way on SEN's weekly football show 'The Global Game', hear Sydney FC boss Steve Corica's thoughts ahead of a massive Sydney Derby in Matchweek 21 and why the ninth-placed Wellington Phoenix aren't out of the Finals Series race just yet.

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Brosque sees Championship contenders emerging as City stroll toward Premiers Plate

It's all-but certain Melbourne City will clinch a maiden A-League Premiership in 2020/21 as the league-leaders face the prospect of lifting silverware with a win over Central Coast Mariners at AAMI Park on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 7.10pm AEST).

But what comes next will be all-important in assessing the success of a side dominating all aspects of the season to date. With a history of coming up short in the moments that mattered, anything besides securing an A-League Premiership/Championship double could be deemed a failure by the end of the Finals Series.

It's a situation Brosque is all too familiar with, having come up short in the post-season after romping to the Premiership with Sydney FC in 2017/18. The Sky Blues finished 14 points above the second-placed Jets, before losing 3-2 to fourth-placed Melbourne Victory in the Semi Finals. 

Victory capitalised on Sydney's capitulation to beat Newcastle to the Championship in the Grand Final. 

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Brosque is pressured in possession during Sydney FC's 2017/18 Semi Final loss to Melbourne Victory
Brosque is pressured in possession during Sydney FC's 2017/18 Semi Final loss to Melbourne Victory

If City can wrap up the Premiers Plate with a win over the third-placed Mariners, attention will then turn to the Finals Series. But Brosque was unwilling to concede a pair of trophies would end in City's cabinet by the end of the season when posed the question by Hill on The Global Game.

"I don’t think there’s much doubt that City will win the Premiership," Hill said.

"I guess the big question that still needs answering is: can they maintain this in the finals?

"They have been accused in years gone by, Brosquey, of having a little bit of a mental block about the big games. Can you see anyone stopping them this season?"

"I still think there’s a couple of clubs that can have a real challenge," Brosque replied.

"At the end of the day a final is a final.

It happened to us a few years ago: 2017/18 season, we won the competition by 14 points and lost the Semi Final, and that was our season done.

On any day anything can happen, and there’s definitely more than capable teams playing and in the top six.

"The big concern for me is more their injuries... that’s the only thing that can really hurt them," Brosque continued.

"(Andrew) Nabbout for me, when he doesn’t play they’re a different team, they’re not the same.

"He has such a massive input in everything they do. They need him, they really need him."

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Nabbout suffered a tear to the adductor tendon in his left thigh during City's clash with Adelaide United.
Nabbout suffered a tear to the adductor tendon in his left thigh during City's clash with Adelaide United.

Corica: Sky Blues dominant along recent Sydney Derby winless streak

Sydney FC head coach Steve Corica believes his side have been unfortunate not to take maximum points from any of their last six meetings with Western Sydney Wanderers after dominating large parts of each Sydney Derby contest along the winless run.

The Sky Blues last won a Sydney Derby in December 2018, and have since lost three and drawn three of the six meetings which have followed.

The last Sydney Derby came on May 1. Despite coming into the clash on a six-game winless streak the Wanderers rose to the occasion to win 3-2. 

Corica told Hill and Brosque he felt the run did not reflect his side's performances against the Wanderers in recent times.

"I think performance-wise we’ve been dominating these games, we just haven’t been on the right end of the scoreline since you (retired) Brosquey - so maybe get you back into the side?" Corica joked with his former striker.

"These big derby games are great for the fans, they want to win these games like (us). All these (games) mean a lot to the club. 

"They haven’t been going our way the last couple of years, a few draws  and a few losses. We’re not really happy with that, but we just have to get it right on the pitch, take our chances when they come.

"We’ll have periods we’re going to dominate the game, and if we take our chances when we do then then we’ll be in a good position to win the game."

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"I think the disappointing thing is, like I said, we’ve dominated these games," Corica said.

"Even the last one we had 73% possession, we had more shots, we created more chances than them but they scores the two goals that they went up to our end.

We’ve been switching off in moments of these games and we’ve been caught out.

We can’t do that, we need to stay focussed for the whole 95, 96 minutes in these days… the main thing for me is if we do take our chances we have a good chance of winning.

Phoenix run-in bolstered by New Zealand homecoming 

As the 2020/21 A-League campaign moves toward an exciting climax, Wellington Phoenix find themselves outside of the top six. But, like three other teams placed seventh to tenth on the A-League table, the Phoenix are daring to dream of a spot in the Finals Series by the end of the regular season.

The opening of the trans-Tasman bubble between Australia and New Zealand has provided Ufuk Talay's side with the chance to return to New Zealand ahead of the first of two games to be played on home soil before the season draws to a close.

The 'Nix host Western United at Sky Stadium on Saturday afternoon, with a Distance Derby against Perth Glory at Eden Park, Aukland on the horizon on May 30. 

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Phoenix touch down in Wellington looking to charge toward Finals Series

Saturday's clash with United at Sky Stadium will provide the patient home fans with the first opportunity to cheer their side since March 15, 2020. Hill and Brosque believe the New Zealand homecoming could provide the 'Nix with the spark they need to mount an unlikely assault on the Finals Series standings.

"They probably need to win all of their games to make the top six," Hill said.

"But they’ve got two home games to come in New Zealand back on home turf for the first time in 433 days, so that’s going to give them a big lift."

"It definitely will. I think you’re right," Brosque answered.

"I think (Brisbane Roar) above them at the moment… they’ve got more games, they’ve got five games left.

"I think at the worst case the Roar is getting seven to eight points - that would mean Wellington do need to win all four games.

"I think there were some great scenes that we saw of the Wellington players going back home, seeing family and friends again, they were great scenes.

"I think they’ll definitely be boosted by going back home, and hopefully the crowd responds to that and shows a lot of support for everything they’ve done."