City build for Hyundai A-League finals surge

Melbourne City are in their “second building phase” of the season, according to coach John van ‘t Schip, who is still working at integrating his new signings before the Hyundai A-League finals.

Van ‘t Schip hinted that he may promote Socceroos defender Alex Wilkinson into City’s starting XI for Saturday night’s derby against Melbourne Victory. 

Hyundai A-League preview: City v Victory

Other recruits Anthony Caceres and Osama Malik may also be a possibility to combine in midfield.

But after two consecutive defeats – including a disappointing 2-1 loss at Newcastle Jets last week – the Dutch coach declared he still has work to do to get City peaking for the finals.

“I think in this moment we’re actually in a second building phase of this year, compared to the team that we started with and the players that have left and the players that have come in,” Van ‘t Schip said at his press conference on Friday.

Melbourne City's Osama Malik and Jacob Melling slump to ground following full-time at Pirtek Stadium.

“So I think it’s now [about] building towards the end of this season and getting the team functioning stronger physically and also in the way that we play. So looking at that, I’m happy.

“I’m happy with the players that have come in and I’m happy with the possibilities that we have but now it’s again [about] showing that we can deliver.”

With midfielder Jacob Melling suspended and defenders Aaron Hughes and Connor Chapman injured, Van ‘t Schip indicated there was no reason Wilkinson – who joined City in the transfer window – couldn’t debut at AAMI Park. 

This despite not having played since December when he left K-League champions Jeonbuk Motors.

It seems Wilkinson will join captain Patrick Kisnorbo and Jack Clisby in a back three, with Malik pushing forward to join Caceres as the holding midfield duo behind playmaker Aaron Mooy.

Anthony Caceres returns from suspension this weekend for Melbourne City's clash with Victory.

Caceres returns after one week out with suspension and is almost certain to start.

“Anthony makes a good chance. He’s been out for his card, he’s fit – he’s a player that’s already shown immediately that he can play 90 minutes,” Van ‘t Schip said.

City’s coach called on his team to show greater “team spirit” in the derby, warning they must improve their mental strength if they are to win a maiden A-League title this season.

“If you really want to become that team that’s going to be week in, week out on top, then that’s another step where we have to improve,” he said.

“So hopefully we can show that tomorrow.”