How do you stop Melbourne City? It is a question the Westfield W-League has not been able to answer this season, but Sydney FC have one last attempt on Saturday.
The Premiership winners have conquered all before them throughout 2019/20 in a campaign destined to go down in the annals as one of the all-time best.
With a star-studded cast of seasoned internationals performing in superb harmony across the pitch, Rado Vidosic’s side are quite simply a ruthless, well-oiled machine.
But there is one devastating combination that Sydney boss Ante Juric has no doubt highlighted in red pen as he prepares a strategy to halt the City juggernaut – that of Westfield Matildas duo Ellie Carpenter and Kyah Simon.
The teenage sensation Carpenter and iconic Australian goal-scorer Simon have been struck up a devastating partnership throughout 2019/20 – with Carpenter creating a league-high 12 chances for her Australian international colleague this campaign.
They have also been standout performers for different reasons.
Carpenter, who joined the three-time Champions from Canberra United in the off season, has seen her star rise to a whole new level.
The 19-year-old has always possessed freakish athleticism that allows her to dominate the right flank from full-back. As two goals and four assists in 2019/20 – and last weekend’s Semi Final thrashing of Western Sydney Wanderers – showed, Carpenter is developing a ruthlessness in the final third when she gets into dangerous attacking positions.
City’s preference for most of the season has been to employ Carpenter and fellow Westfield Matildas star Steph Catley as attacking wing-backs and it has been a frighteningly effective formula.
It has also played a big role in the renaissance of Kyah Simon.
Simon, the first Indigenous Australian to net a FIFA Women's World Cup™ goal, has overcome a fitness nightmare in 2019/20 that spanned almost two years to remind fans why she is considered one of the all-time great Westfield Matildas goal-scorers.
She has played 12 matches for Vidosic’s side, scoring six times and making three assists – an excellent contribution made more impressive by virtue of the fact Simon has not been deployed regularly as an out-and-out number nine.
Instead, the 28-year-old has been utilised primarily on the left or right of City’s attacking trio. With Scotland international Claire Emslie the focal point of City attack, Simon’s position has been one that enables her to benefit from the rapid surges of Carpenter and the accuracy of Catley’s delivery from wide positions.
Last weekend’s 5-1 hammering of Western Sydney Wanderers was a good example of the cleverness and efficiency with which Simon is currently operating. She scored a brace, both from Catley deliveries from the left – a point-blank header in the first half and a superb piece of striking play in the second.
There are combinations all over the field that Sydney must guard against at AAMI Park on Saturday as the two teams vie for a record fourth Westfield W-League Championship. But if the Sky Blues can not find a way to silence City’s flying Westfield Matildas full-backs and the team’s resurgent finisher, the mountain will become more difficult to climb.
Westfield W-League 2020 Grand Final
Date: Saturday 21 March 2020
Fixture: Melbourne City FC vs Sydney FC
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off Time: 3:30pm (AEDT)
TV Broadcast: FOX SPORTS 505 from 3:00pm (AEDT), ABC TV from 3:00pm (AEDT), Kayo and the My Football Live App.