It’s a sequel from the season before, with Melbourne City and Sydney FC doing battle in the A-League grand final yet again.
This time, however, it’s on Melbourne City’s home turf at AAMI Park.
City will be out to avenge its 1-0 loss in extra time last year and win a first ever A-League championship to go with the Premiers Plate it won for finishing the season at the top of the table.
Sydney FC, on the other hand, will be out to equal the NSL/A-League record of three straight championships, a feat only achieved previously by Sydney City Hakoah between 1980 and 1982.
It would also be their fourth title in five years and sixth overall, which would take them two championships clear at the top in NSL/A-League history.
Who’s hit worst by missing Socceroos?
The Socceroos’ World Cup qualifiers in the Kuwaiti hub may be over, but quarantine laws mean that six players — three from each side — will miss the grand final. Five of them will be watching from hotel quarantine, which will no doubt be a torturous experience.
City’s Connor Metcalfe has remained overseas ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
Sydney FC’s losses — goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne, right back Rhyan Grant and centre back Ryan McGowan — will all be felt in defence.
City’s absentees are spread over the park, with star central defender Curtis Good missing, along with Metcalfe in midfield and then the big one — 25-goal Golden Boot winner Jamie Maclaren in attack.
It’s a pretty close call on who suffers the most from this, but when you consider the impact of Maclaren and the threat he would pose in what are usually tight affairs in grand finals, that unwanted honour goes to Melbourne City, but only just.
How will the match be won?
Without their Socceroos squad members and star wingers Craig Noone and Andrew Nabbout in their semi-final, Melbourne City youngsters Marco Tilio and Stefan Colakovski stood up superbly with a brilliant goal and assist each to account for Macarthur.
The question is, can they do it again on the big stage of a grand final?
And if Nabbout and Noone are passed fit to play, will they be at a strong enough level physically to impact the contest significantly?
There’s a fair amount that is unknown there.
What we do know is that Sydney FC’s back four will be unsure of themselves without Grant, McGowan and Redmayne, and with the confidence and momentum City have — along with the help of the home crowd — they can get at them and expose them.
But Sydney FC know they have the attacking advantage. Not only have they kept their attacking group together amid the national team commitments, but in Adam Le Fondre, Bobo, Kosta Barbarouses, Milos Ninkovic and Luke Brattan they have experienced performers, especially in finals.
If they can keep things compact at the back and hold City out they know they have the weapons to score at the other end — and certainly more weapons than City in Maclaren’s absence.
Who could be the key match-winners?
Alex Wilkinson equals the NSL/A-League grand final appearance record with seven, and considering he has lost three of his defensive partners for this decider at Sydney FC, it promises to be one of his toughest tests yet.
Already a great of the Australian game, the 36-year-old, who is a 16-time Socceroo himself, can add another chapter to his glittering career if he marshals a makeshift Sky Blues defence to a third straight title.
Luke Brattan has had a stunning second half of the season and he will be crucial in protecting the Sydney back four and then launching attacks with his precise passing game and set-piece threats from his deep-lying playmaking role.
The gun Sydney FC attackers will be relying on him once more and he’ll relish the chance to run the grand final show. He’s a very good chance for the Joe Marston Medal for best afield in the grand final.
Come the Olympics, Melbourne City goalkeeper and Olyroos number one Tom Glover will have his work cut out trying to keep Spain, Argentina and Egypt at bay, so this occasion looms as the perfect preparation.
After starring in last year’s grand final, the City gloveman has shown he can deliver under pressure and you get the strong feeling he’ll need to deliver again to keep Sydney at bay.
Nabbout comes into the game under an injury cloud but after a series of media appearances this week — including the ABC Grandstand Football Podcast — it seems he will push through the pain barrier and worry about the implications of that afterwards.
His drive, directness and eye for goal from wide areas will be important to take some of the pressure off youngsters Tilio and Colakovski and help provide them space to exploit the Sky Blues defensively.
How do I watch the grand final?
The clash was pushed to late on Sunday afternoon with a 5:05pm AEST kick-off due to ground availability in Melbourne and the late call on the venue and date.
It will be played at 50 per cent crowd capacity at AAMI Park, which should account for a grand final crowd of around 15,000 spectators.
You can watch the grand final delayed on ABC TV at 6:00pm AEST.