Melbourne City are dreaming of the AFC Champions League (ACL) ahead of Sunday’s clash with Perth Glory and looking to make a couple of statements before the Hyundai A-League finals begin.
City can wrap up third spot in the A-League with a win in Western Australia in the final round of the regular season, which would put Michael Valkanis’ side in pole position to claim a berth in the preliminary phase of the 2018 ACL.
For a club with lofty ambitions of dominating not only Australian but Asian football, City are desperate to make their ACL debut next year, which underlines the importance of their game against Glory.
City (39 points) are ahead of fourth-placed Brisbane Roar on goal difference, with Perth (36) in fifth.
“For us, it’s massive,” centre-back Osama Malik said on Wednesday.
“We want to be a club that can challenge for all the titles and the [ACL] is massive. It’s the biggest one in Asia.”
The A-League has 2.5 ACL berths, with the premiers and champions each qualifying automatically, while second spot in the A-League comes with a preliminary or “half” chance.
In the history of the A-League, no team outside the top two has won the grand final to become champions, meaning that the third-placed side can almost bank on continental qualification.
“That’s why we’ve been aiming for that third spot once we found out we wouldn’t be able to make second. So it’s a massive game for us,” Malik said.
“We need to go there and try and win the game.
“We haven’t probably won as many away games as we would have liked this season but we’re confident with the personnel that we have in our squad that we can beat any team.”
City have won just three of 12 games outside Victoria this season but will have to win on the road at least once to claim their maiden A-League championship.
Not only will victory against Glory prove Valkanis’ men have that ability but also remind the rest of the top six that they can perform when everything’s on the line as they did to lift the FFA Cup in November.
“The FFA Cup Final was massive for us in terms of confidence because that was a game where everything was on the line and we had to win it and I think it was probably one of our best performances for the season,” Malik said.
“So it’s something we’ve taken strength from and we know if we play well and we play as a team, we can beat anyone.”