The Grand Final of the A-League is finally here almost 11 months since the competition started on October 11, 2019 with premiers Sydney FC chasing its fifth championship and third in four years, against Melbourne City in its first grand final.
As with most sports across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc with the tournament and even had questions over whether the season would finish at all.
You can follow today’s Grand Final live in the scoreboard above.
But the cream has come to the top with the top two teams on the ladder facing off on the biggest day of the calendar.
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DAGGER HANGING OVER A-LEAGUE JUGGERNAUT
Sydney FC are favourites to win a third title in four years with the Sky Blues’ head coach Steve Corica backing his “big-game players” to give the team a key advantage over first-times Melbourne City in the A-League Grand Final.
Sydney have once again been dominant in 2019-20, sealing the premiership with four games left after the interrupted season.
The Sky Blues have plenty of experience with seven of their starting line-up against Perth were involved in last year’s final while Socceroo Ryan McGowan and German playmaker Alex Baumjohann have brought a wealth of European experience in their first campaign.
But just how long this will last remains to be seen with the team set to be placed under plenty of pressure as salary cap pressures due to COVID hit hard.
In the rest of the league, it’s estimated 70 players will come off contract as of Tuesday morning.
The Daily Telegraph reported while Sydney have their entire squad on deals at least until the end of next year, “with an anticipated slashing of the salary cap incoming, with players to again be asked to accepted reduced wages, there’s a fear that those contracts will effectively become null and void – with many of the league’s stars angling for overseas moves.”
One such player reportly looking overseas is striker Adam Le Fondre, who was the second highest goal scorer of the season with 21 behind City‘s Jamie Maclaren who had 23.
Le Fondre has been strongly linked to a move to Indian Super League team Mumbai City FC.
Le Fondre in action in the A-League semi-final.Source:Getty Images
While Sydney FC chairman Danny Townsend said the team was “as stable as we‘ve ever been”, Le Fondre admitted the league is not in the same shape.
“The uncertainty for the league is for everyone to see,” Townsend told News Corp.
“What happens in the future happens, but for the time being I’m focused on football for Sydney and going back-to-back.
“I don’t think it’s been a distraction for me. I’d be doing a disservice to the boys if I think about other things when I’m obviously trying to win the GF with the boys.
“All the players, we’re not really too focused on what’s next – we’re thinking of the right now and the here and now, that’s the most important thing really.”
Sydney FC skipper Alex Wilkinson said there is no chance he‘ll finish up regardless of the result, despite now being 36 and having debuted in the league’s very first game.
Alex Wilkinson gives a thumbs up to the crowd.Source:Getty Images
Sydney FC will be looking to become just the second club in the A-League’s 15-year history behind the 2011-12 Brisbane Roar.
Corica said experience would be the difference if the Sky Blues can come away with the title.
“It definitely helps. Big-game players, they’ve got the experience,” Corica said.
“They’ve been there before. A lot of them played in the game last year.
“It definitely plays a part but you just have to back up on Sunday and make sure we obviously get the tactics right and put on another performance like that.”
In contrast to Sydney’s success, Erick Mombaerts’ City are in their first Grand Final, looking to emulate Roar, who also won on their maiden appearance, under former Australia coach Ange Postecoglou in 2011.
But he said only a win on Sunday would make their season a success.
“We have done a very good season, it’s a first time to reach a final but now we have one more game to win,” Mombaerts said.
“It’s not enough to reach the final. Now it’s very important to expect to win this.”
– with AFP
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