For Melbourne City, the Easter Sunday clash with Wellington Phoenix will almost certainly determine their finals fate.
Win, and they could still snatch fourth spot on the A-League ladder and a home final.
Lose, and in all likelihood it will be a sudden-death semi-final against their biggest rivals, Melbourne Victory, in the first week of the play-offs.
The fact that this is a critical game means little to City coach WarrenJoyce, who believes his side have effectively been playing finals type matches for several weeks now. Wellington, a team he admires, will be no different he says.
''Its not different than that: [we are] no different in our approach than we have in several weeks. We go there knowing that theyre a good side," he said.
“Theyre well organised, theyve got a good coach, theyve got a good way of playing and theyve got some threats. Theyve got people who can score goals and are in the goalscoring charts.
“They can create chances and take chances. Theyve proved that all season.
“We know weve got a tough game on, weve played them twice this season, won one and lost one.”
If City win they will close to within a point of Adelaide United (1-0 victors over Kevin Muscat's side on Good Friday) and, with bottom-of-the-table Central Coast Mariners as their final game at AAMI Park, would be optimistic of taking another three points in their final home-and-away game.
If that scenario unfolds, Adelaide would have to beat Brisbane Roar in their last game of the season in Queensland on Anzac Day evening – 24 hours before City host the Mariners.
On paper that should be straightforward, but emotion will come into play as the Anzac Day fixture will be the last game for Roar stalwart and skipper Matt McKay as he has announced his retirement at season's end.
Roar will be desperate to send him off with three points in his final fixture for the club with whom he is so identified.
Wellington are also in a similar boat. If they win on Sunday they will be one point behind Adelaide but their task is much harder than City's as their last fixture is the ''distance derby'' in which they travel to the home of premiers' plate winners Perth Glory.
The Glory will want to finish the home-and-away season – the first in which they have finished top of the league – in style in front of their own fans before they get a one-week break in the first week of the finals.
Wellington are also likely to produce an emotional atmosphere for the Easter Sunday game as it could well be coach Mark Rudan's last home fixture – if they don't finish fourth and secure a home final.
Rudan told the club last week that he would not be staying on as head coach having made such a huge impression in his first season in charge, so players and fans are likely to want to send him off on a high note.
He is widely expected to take on the role of head coach at the A-League's newest club, Western United, next season.
City travelled to New Zealand without their key defender Bart Schenkenveld for tRead More – Source