Reigning champions Melbourne City face cross-town rivals Western United in the A-League grand final on Saturday, with Patrick Kisnorbo’s men looking to emulate sister club Manchester City.
Formerly Melbourne Heart, the team was taken over by City Football Group — which owns Pep Guardiola’s Premier League title-winners — in 2014 and after years of struggle have become the benchmark in recent seasons.
Melbourne City are only the second team to appear in three consecutive grand finals, alongside Sydney FC, who they beat in the decider last year, and are gunning for back-to-back titles to mirror their Manchester stablemate.
In contrast Western United, who only joined the league in the 2019-20 season, are in their maiden final, ensuring an all-Melbourne affair for the first time.
Kisnorbo, who used to play for Leicester City and Leeds United, denied his team’s extra experience would make any difference.
“It’s just 11 players going out there playing as hard as they can,” said the City coach.
“But it’s great that we can play at home and a great achievement for the players (to get this far).”
Socceroos striker Jamie Maclaren missed the grand final last season, instead watching on TV in hotel quarantine after national duty overseas playing World Cup qualifiers.
He has been a key part of City’s success this year and is relishing the opportunity.
“In the grand final it’s just going to be all about taking our chances when they present themselves,” he said.
“You’ve got to realise in some of these games, big moments are happening, and I believe that when a big moment does fall to me I’ll be on my toes and ready for it.”
The regular season saw the two teams trade places at the top of the table for much of the campaign, but it was City who finished first to win the Premiers Plate and they are favoured by bookmakers in the final.
United coach John Aloisi, a former Socceroos teammate of Kisnorbo and who previously coached Melbourne Heart, said he was happy to see his team emerge as a force to be reckoned with.
“We know it’ll be massive for us. It’s already an achievement what we’re doing at the moment, and being here, but we want to win obviously and I’m sure City have got the same ideas,” he said.
“We want to write history for our club.”
Whether the two teams can fill the 30,000-capacity AAMI Park remains to be seen. Melbourne Victory is the city’s most popular side with City and United not enjoying the same supporter base.