So the first piece of silverware in the Hyundai A-League 2018/19 Season has been confirmed with Perth Glory getting their hands on a historic first Premiership over the weekend.
Tony Popovic’s side have been superb all season and got the job done impressively with two rounds to spare.
They’ll now turn their attention towards completing the double when the Finals Series gets underway next month.
WATCH FOR FREE: How to watch the Hyundai A-League LIVE and FREE
HEROIC MOMENTS: Franjic enters Glory folklore - at the right end
RECORD BREAKERS: Perth Glory's surge to the Premiership
REACTION: Popovic, Reddy and Chianese celebrate Perth Glory's Premiership victory
But as we have seen in the past – as recently as last season – finishing first doesn’t guarantee anything when the do-or-die finals matches are on.
While the Glory juggernaut will take some stopping, we look at how the other five clubs who will play in the Finals Series match-up against the team from the west.
The Sky Blues have already shown this season they have the quality and arsenal to get the better of Glory, winning 2-1 at HBF Park back in Round 9.
Sydney FC set out to frustrate Glory on that occasion, denying Neil Kilkenny and Juande space in the middle of the park.
The energy and work-rate of central midfielders Josh Brillante and Brandon O’Neill was key to that plan being implemented, while fullbacks Rhyan Grant and Michael Zullo had to win their battle with Glory counterparts Ivan Franjic and Jason Davidson.
Experience in the big end-of-season games from the last couple of years could also work in the Sky Blues’ favour, as well as their astonishing record against Perth.
Apart from Glory’s 3-1 win over Sydney FC back in January, Sydney FC have dominated this fixture, winning nine of the last 10 meetings between the two clubs.
It’s a record that is sure to give Steve Corica’s troops confidence should they meet in the finals.
Like the Sky Blues, Victory have also managed to get a win over the Glory in Perth, and it was as recently as Round 23.
After losing twice to Glory in Melbourne earlier this season, Kevin Muscat’s men tweaked their game-plan for the trip to HBF Park last month.
Known for their fast-paced, possession-based attacking football, Victory sat deeper and tried to deny Glory time and space, as well as the ability to hit them on transition.
And while Glory had more than 50 entries into Victory’s box, it was a plan that worked to perfection, especially once the visitors took the lead via Ola Toivonen’s free-kick.
If the two clubs are to meet again in this season’s Grand Final – which is the only possible time they can face-off in the finals – you can be sure Muscat try for a repeat performance from his experienced side.
Of all the teams that will play finals football this season, the Reds are the side that have the worst record against Glory.
While Marco Kurz’s side did fight out and goalless draw in Perth in Round 15, that’s as good as it gets.
Glory punished Adelaide twice at Coopers Stadium – in Round 4 and Round 22 – registering 2-0 wins on both occasions.
Scoring goals has been a problem for the Reds all season, with only the Mariners (28) scoring less than their 31 after 25 Rounds.
So it’s no surprise the area Adelaide must improve to have any chance should they face Glory in the finals. With no goal against Popovic’s men in 270 minutes of action, how will the Reds penetrate Perth’s rear-guard?
They are separated by more than 5,000kms but the distance on the pitch is much tighter between these two sides.
Their two meetings this season have ended in a 1-1 draw in Wellington in Round 6, followed by a 3-0 win for Glory in Perth in Round 17.
While it would suggest Glory have been comfortable against the side from New Zealand, scratch the surface and it’s a little different.
The Phoenix led the Round 6 clash for long periods before a harsh red card to Ryan Lowry in the second half eventually saw Perth equalise through Diego Castro.
In the second meeting in Perth, Wellington were without experienced defenders Andrew Durante and Steven Taylor, while things could have been different if David Williams’ early shot that hit the crossbar had gone in.
Mark Rudan’s side actually plays a similar system to Perth, with a back three, two classy industrious midfielders, attacking wing-backs and a front-three with plenty of goals in them.
Wellington will get another chance to land a psychological blow before the Finals Series when the two sides meet in Round 27.
While they haven’t registered a win over Perth this season, City have been one of the few teams to really trouble the new Premiers.
Two out of the three meetings – both in Melbourne – have ended in draws, while Glory’s 1-0 win in Perth back in Round 7 was a tight affair.
City’s defensive bedrock makes them a tough nut to crack and with mid-season recruits Jamie Maclaren and Shayon Harrison, they have the speed to hit in transition.
That combination almost worked to perfection in Round 21, as Maclaren scored twice as City led Perth 2-0 at AAMI Park.
Warren Joyce’s men conceded twice in the last six minutes to draw that match 2-2 but there were signs in that clash that augur well for City should they come across Perth next month.
It's a big two weeks for...
- Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory
The Sky Blues 1-1 draw in the Derby on Saturday night has opened the door for Victory to challenge them for a top-two finish.
Victory's late win over the Central Coast Mariners means they are now just two points behind Sydney FC heading into the penultimate round of the regular season.
Sydney FC takes on newly-minted Premiers Perth Glory on Thursday night (at home), followed by a trip to Newcastle Jets in Round 27, while Victory are away from home for their last two games against Adelaide United and Western Sydney Wanderers.
- Adelaide United, Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne City
The battle for fourth spot is no clearer after the weekend's matches with Adelaide United (38), Wellington Phoenix (37) and Melbourne City (37) neck-and-neck with two games to go.
The Reds are now in the box seat with a one-point advantage, with games against Victory (home) and Brisbane Roar (away) to come.
Phoenix host City in Round 26 with the loser to drop out of contention for a top-four finish. The final round sees Wellington travel to Perth Glory, while City is at home against the Mariners.