Preliminary Final Preview: Melbourne City v Melbourne Victory

Ahead of Sunday’s Preliminary Final where Melbourne City host cross-city rivals Melbourne Victory for the right to travel to Sydney FC for the Grand Final, Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from City striker Hannah Wilkinson and head coach Rado Vidosic (19/3/22).

Above: Melbourne City striker Hannah Wilkinson speaking to the media on Friday. Photo: Melbourne City.

Melbourne City striker Hannah Wilkinson opened her media conference by reflecting on the frustrations of last week’s defeat to Sydney FC in the semi-final.

“We were pretty deflated after the match, it was a pretty wild game. We were inches away from getting into the Grand Final. It sucked, it really did. That’s football though, and we have a chance still and we’re fully focussed.”

City go into Sunday’s Preliminary Final with Melbourne Victory without the suspended pair of Tyla-Jay (TJ) Vlajnic and Melissa Barbieri. Wilkinson admitted that those players will be a big loss, but she knows their replacements are more than good enough to step-up.

“It’s an extra bummer losing two key players and we do have depth in the squad. Sally (James) is an excellent keeper. She’s ready and has been pushing ‘Bubs’ (Barbieri) in training anyway and she’s confident. In terms of TJ, we have Chelsea Blissett available. As a squad, we have players ready. We’re ready to bounce back from last week’s war of a game!”

The last time Wilkinson faced Melbourne Victory, she put in an incredible personal performance scoring all of City’s goals in a 5-1 win. The New Zealand international admits that she dreaming of a re-run.

“It was very satisfying for sure. I’d love to see that repeated. It was an ideal team performance. I was there to put away all of the hard work that the team put together. I hope we put together that performance again.”

“Victory are certainly not a team not to be taken for granted. They’ve got some extremely talented players. It will be another fight, they have been in lots of Finals before. It will be different from last time that’s for sure.”

“We need to want it more than them and play the kind of football that we know wins games and scores goals. We’re capable of playing nice football and it is so beautiful to play. We have the players to do it and now just want to go on to the Grand Final and win it.”

Above: Melbourne City head coach Rado Vidosic at yesterday’s media conference. Photo: Melbourne City.

Melbourne City head coach Rado Vidosic dismissed thoughts that his side will go into Sunday’s Preliminary Final on the back foot after defeat at Sydney FC in last week’s Semi-Final.

“No, not at all. We’ve been through the footage of the game and went through a few things. It is not hard to re-motivate the players for a Derby and we are very much still in the competitions. Training has been very good, so we are looking ahead to Sunday.”

Despite last week’s semi-final defeat in Sydney, City’s head coach saw plenty of positives to take out of the game. “We made progress between the last time we played Sydney FC away (a 3-0 loss). We came so close last week to going through and hosting the Grand Final. We can take that progress out of that game. We want another chance to play them in Sydney by winning on Sunday.”

The Sky Blues will go into Sunday’s Preliminary Final without both Tyla-Jay (TJ) Vlajnic and Melissa Barbieri due to suspension. Vidosic outlined the reshuffle he will perform. “Chelsea Blissett will come in for TJ and Sally James for Bubs (Barbieri). It’s player for player and gloves for gloves. A straight swop. Now is not the time to try things out.”

There may be a need for further changes to City’s squad ahead of the match. “We have a couple of niggling injuries. Someone was also sick, but they came back yesterday. We just need to see how those injuries clear up on Saturday before making final decisions. We are happy and ready. Last time we played them, we did well (a 5-1 win on Boxing Day).”

This time though, City will face a very different Victory team to the one they faced previously as the Sky Blues head coach recognized.

“Maybe their current group of players has more experience than our current group. Yet some of us have won before. Melissa Barbieri has been there and done it for 20 years. One thing that we do have is a good lead-up to the Finals. We had good performances and good results. We will show that on Sunday.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

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