For weeks, Sydney FC have had one hand firmly gripped on the Westfield W-League Premiers Plate, but Melbourne Victory coach Jeff Hopkins is polishing up a masterplan to complete one of the most unlikely title steals in recent memory when the Big Blue rivals meet on Wednesday.
On February 8, the Sky Blues completed their seventh straight win, a 4-0 thumping of Canberra United, and were already closing on their first Premiership crown in a decade, opening up a seven-point gap at the top, while Victory lay 11 points behind them with a game in hand.
But the Harbour City side's perfect record evaporated with a 4-1 reverse against Brisbane Roar a week later and Ante Juric's team went on to win only two of their next five matches – leaving the door tantalisingly open for the Navy Blue to time their ascent.
The 2018/19 Premiers, Victory have strung together their own dominant stretch of six wins in seven to force themselves back into contention, and Hopkins is dreaming of putting the finishing touches on a smash and grab raid for the ages when Victory travel to Cromer Park needing a win to be crowned Premiers, while any other result will see Sydney lift the Premiers Plate.
"We've really been trying hard just to look one game ahead," he told melbournevictory.com.au after the 6-0 triumph over Perth Glory, played only three days before Wednesday's title decider.
"It would've been easy to start looking at the Sydney game and saying we should be playing for a premiership in that game, but that doesn't happen unless we win the game (Sunday) and we win it well.
"Two or three weeks ago I think Sydney would've been thinking they're home and hosed but we've just kept going and chipping away and chipping away and chipping away and I think six wins and a draw in seven, five clean sheets and (Sunday) we found our scoring boots as well which was nice.
"[I’m ] pleased with the way that we've kept focused on what's just in front of us and that's got us to where we are now and we're looking forward to the game on Wednesday.
"We know we're in good form and we're in with a good shot as well – so bring it on."
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The six-star win over Glory equalled Victory’s best ever return of seven wins in a single campaign, while recording 23 points is their second best-ever tally, behind their maiden Premiership-winning effort of 24.
Sydney saw the chance to clinch their third Premiers Plate, and first since 2010-11, against Canberra disappear before their eyes last Friday during a 0-0 draw. Hopkins’ side are determined not to let this unexpected opportunity pass them by.
"We've got our eyes on the prize now and that's all we're going to be focused on, going there and putting in a performance that allows us to win the game," Hopkins said.
"Obviously Sydney are a very good side and they've been the frontrunners all season, but they're definitely not a team that's unbeatable and the form that we're in at the moment, we're playing as well as we have been all season and we're just coming into some really good form now.
"It's going to be a game that we're really up for and we're going to give it a really good shot."
Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC
Wednesday, March 31 2021
Venue: Cromer Park
Kick-off 7.35pm AEDT
Stream: MyFootball Live App, Kayo Sports
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