A tough assignment away to table-topping Western United is next on the agenda for Canberra United as they make the trip to Melbourne for Round 18 of the Liberty A-League with time running out on any top-six, and finals, aspirations.

Canberra heads to Victoria in a fine shape of mind however, having defeated Melbourne City and drawn away to Perth Glory in their last two encounters, tough fixtures against teams who are notoriously tricky opponents.

There has been no shortage of goals for Canberra in recent weeks, Matildas Goalscorer Michelle Heyman having netted seven in the last five outings herself, and Njegosh Popovich will be hoping that his team can continue to create opportunities whilst shoring up defensively.

Western have won their last five fixtures in the competition, the last time their colours were downed was in a narrow 0-1 loss to Sydney FC back on Sunday 14 January. Since then, Adelaide United, Melbourne City, Central Coast Mariners, Brisbane Roar, and Wellington Phoenix have been sent packing on their inexorable march to the summit.

Western’s maiden league campaign was nothing short of sensational. They hit the ground running and, for extended periods of time, appeared to be on course to win the Premiers title at the very first attempt. They ran out of steam a bit in the end and finished the campaign a point behind the eventual table-toppers Sydney FC.

The Melbourne-based unit had a chance for revenge by making the Grand Final, but were comprehensively outplayed on the day, losing 0-4, however appear to be in a better position to avenge that loss this term, sitting a point clear of City and five ahead of the Sky Blues heading into this Round, although the latter have a game in hand.

Earlier this season the teams shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw at McKellar Park as Heyman struck for Canberra on the half-hour, Adriana Taranto equalising for the visitors with fourteen minutes to play.

Ironically, that means neither side has won their respective home matches in this fledgling series, Western having walloped Canberra 5-0 in the inaugural meeting at McKellar Park in in late January 2023, only for Canberra to return the favour two months later, winning 3-0 in Victoria.

With Canberra’s match against Sydney FC abandoned after only 36 minutes due to adverse weather conditions, the team have a couple of games in hand on the teams floating around the fringes of the play-off places and, surprising as it may seem for a team at the foot of the table, hope still springs eternal.

A solid performance against a team tipped for success would continue that optimism into the run-in, but the squad is under no illusions that this encounter will be a particularly testing task.


Liberty A-League Round 18

Friday 1 March 2024

Western United v Canberra United

(City Vista Recreation Reserve, 16:30)

Live on Paramount+ and 10Play