Amazing, isn't it, that a team with a 33% win record is just one game away from a Grand Final. Not only that, but a win on Friday night against premiership-winning Melbourne Victory will assure Melbourne City of a qualifying spot, at the very least, for next season's Asian Champions League.
Admittedly, this fact is far more amazing and enjoyable for City fans as it is for the rest of the competition, particularly their Melbourne neighbours. Friday night's sudden-death Melbourne Derby - the first of its kind - is a spectacle A-League powerbrokers have anticipated since the Melbourne Heart entered the league in 2010. Top of the pile Victory, who secured the Premier's Plate on the final day of the season, come up against City for the fourth time this season- 5-2 (Victory), 1-0 (City) and 3-0 (Victory) the results preceeding it.
City were quick to get on the front foot following Sunday's two-nil elimination final win over the Phoenix in Wellington. All the pressure (and there's a lot of it) is on the Victory. This year's finals system gives the top two teams a week off to start the series, but removes their double chance. Albeit unlikely, if City were to roll the Victory on Friday night Kevin Muscat's head is a chance to explode. One-and-out is not an option generally available to those that finish on top, but that's the situation they find themselves in.
It's not just on the pitch that the Premiers are feeling hardly done by. While past Victory vs City derby days at Etihad Stadium have seen the City active support near the corner flag, curiously this week the Melburnians will occupy the south terrace. As a result, the Victory's South End supporter base have been shifted to the North End; the traditional South End/ North End banter will lack its usual formidability. City members were able to purchase four tickets each, while Victory members were entitled to just one. It is clear that the FFA want Friday night's match to be the spectacle they crave, rather than that which the Premiers probably deserve.
On the pitch it's a curious contest. Recent encounters would suggest it's the Victory's game for the taking however City and Heart before them have a history of pulling out unlikely derby wins.