There’s no heightening of stakes or expectations at Melbourne City ahead of their A-League elimination final.
Coach Warren Joyce is confident in his team and their form, and is hopeful that what’s taken his side to a club-record third place will be enough to get City across the line on Friday night against Brisbane.
Captain Michael Jakobsen’s availability is the club’s biggest issue.
The Danish defender was missed in City’s last match, a 2-1 loss to Wellington in Auckland, that had no bearing on their final finish.
Regardless, Joyce believes City have the credentials to make their third semi-final in four seasons.
“The players, to be fair to them, have been great this season,” he said.
“They’ve got the highest position they’ve ever gotten. They’ve got equal the most wins the club’s ever had.
“Conceded the least goals … and had the most clean sheets.
“There’s not been many teams that have carved us open and given us loads of problems.
“So we want to come out with a really good performance, all guns blazing.”
Jakobsen has trained this week in “a managed environment” and will be given until the last moment to show his fitness.
Osama Malik, coming off a six-week lay-off with a quad injury, is a likely replacement to continue at centre-back without Jakobsen.
While it’s down back that City have concerns, it’s up front where their strength lies.
A fit-again Bruno Fornaroli is a fearsome prospect, with goals in his past four matches.
And Daniel Arzani will strap in for the biggest club game of his young career.
There have been few setbacks in Arzani’s dazzling run to a possible Socceroos call-up, but the 19-year-old did lower his colours on a previous visit to the big stage of a Melbourne derby.
Joyce was eager to keep any pressure away from his young star ahead of the encounter.
“The gauntlet for him is no different for all the players. We’ve thrown it down. We want to be unbeaten for three games,” he said.
“You guys talk about him and rightly so because he’s a young Australian, but I don’t think some of the older Australians that we’ve got in our team would go amiss in the Socceroos’ environment either.
STATS THAT MATTER:
* City have won two of the three meetings this season between the sides – the opening night of the season at AAMI Park and a round-19 clash in Brisbane
* Bruno Fornaroli is on a four-game scoring streak – his best run during his three-season A-League stint
* Brisbane have won four of their past six away games but are on a four-game losing streak in away finals
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