City tackling the COVID unknown ahead of Wanderers’ visit

Melbourne City coach Patrick Kisnorbo says he is taking it day by day in his efforts to ease his COVID hit side back into the swing of A-League Men (ALM) action against Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday evening.

After being forced to postpone an FFA Cup and ALM fixture across the Christmas period due to what Kirsnorbo revealed was all but five members of his squad testing positive for the coronavirus, City returned to football on Wednesday in an FFA Cup quarterfinal against Wellington Phoenix.

It was not, however, a happy resumption for the defending ALM Premiers and Champions; the Nix keeping their hosts at bay – and surviving a Scott Jamieson penalty – for 120 minutes before eventually triumphing in a penalty shootout.

Some of his players having exited quarantine as little as a day prior to the fixture, the extra half an hour of football, let alone the defeat, would have hardly been what Kisnorbo was hoping for when he headed down to Kingston Heath for the contest knowing that a date with Wanderers loomed on the weekend.

Nonetheless, initial signs are that lady luck, with a sizable assist from the club’s sports science and medical department, may have smiled upon the Citizens.

“They’ve pulled up ok,” Kisnorbo said of his side. “Obviously, there’s a few tired bodies but everyone [that played against the Phoenix is] ok and ready to be selected for Sunday’s game.

“But we’ll take it day by day just to see how things are and how the boys pull up each day as it goes by.

“I thought we were great in terms of the way we were physically and mentally prepared [for Wednesday’s game]. We had chances to score, we didn’t and it is what it is. We can’t change that now but what I’m really pleased with was the attitude – especially from the circumstances that we faced.

“There’s a lot of positives that came out of the other game.”

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Jamie Maclaren, a restless sideline observer at the Cup game on Wednesday evening, will return after serving his one-match suspension for a red card against Melbourne Victory in the Christmas Derby, although defender Curtis Good remains touch and go as he seeks to recover from his infection.

“With this virus sometimes it affects different people in different ways and Curtis is maybe needing a bit more rest than others,” said Kisnorbo. “It’s the unknown. I’m not a doctor. But sometimes the virus affects people in different ways and one of them is Curtis.

“But he’s out of quarantine and all that sort of stuff, we just need to monitor him and see how he goes day by day.

“The hard thing is, it’s a medical condition. I didn’t really finish school – I don’t really know.

“It’s out of my league.

“That’s why it’s so hard to know exactly what will happen physically with the player. You’ve just got to judge it as you see it. If they’re ok, they’re ok but I know personally we have to adapt and treat it on its merit.”

Originally set to take on Macarthur FC on Sunday evening, COVID cases amongst the Bulls’ initially forced the postponement of that fixture and temporarily left City facing down another week on the ALM sidelines – only for the postponement of the Wanderers’ game against the Central Coast Mariners to open the door for the two sides to meet instead.

Thanks to the virus, the Wanderers haven’t played a game since a 2-0 loss to the Mariners three weeks ago; a result that led to former coaches Patrick Zwaanswijk and Dean Heffernan to claim that the club’s chief executive John Tsatsimas and football operations boss Gavin Costello were overseeing a “toxic culture” at the club.

That saga has only heaped further pressure on coach Carl Robinson, whose future in Sydney’s west has been the subject of rampant speculation in the wake of a disappointing start to 2021-22.

See Also: Second-best Wanderers under the microscope after slow start to ALM season

Nonetheless, the Welshman hopes that the long break between games, as well as the return of Jack Rodwell and Keanu Baccus, will serve to help kickstart their season.

“We’ve been able to sort out a few bits and pieces and we’ve got a few players back which has helped the intensity,” said Robinson.

“We started decently and had two really difficult games where we didn’t perform at our levels. We own that and have to admit that.

“Sometimes a break can do you good. We’ve got to use that [break] as a positive; we’ve got 20 games to go.”

For his part, Kisnorbo is paying scant attention to the possibility that his side may deliver the death blow to Robinson’s tenure.

“That stuff, that’s none of my business,” he said. “I can’t control what happens at other teams. My main concern is what I can control here. The other stuff is none of my business and I don’t pay attention to that.”

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Header Image Credit: Melbourne City

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