Melbourne City Westfield W-League season preview: Can revamped City set the standard again?
After winning three straight Westfield W-League Championships, Melbourne City missed the Finals Series altogether last season.
Is this the season Rado Vidosic's side reassert themselves as the competition's force to be reckoned with?
We caught up with inaugural Championship winner Marianna Tabain to preview an important campaign ahead for the Victorians.
Last season: 5th
Tabain's predicted position for 2019/20: Grand Finalists
TRANSFER UPDATE: Every Westfield W-League In for the 2019/20 Season
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The key question
Can City regain benchmark status?
Having been part of the club's inaugural Westfield W-League squad, Tabain knows all about the ambitions City hold.
The Cockburn City junior played an integral role in the club's remarkable debut season, in which City romped to an unbeaten Premiership and Championship double under current Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro.
The club then secured a historic three-peat of the trophy in the following 2016/17 and 2017/18 campaigns.
"It was unique," Tabain recalls to w-league.com.au of City's dominance.
"The belief the club instilled in us and the recruitment of staff and players was the difference. We had a really positive vibe among the team.
"Being undefeated in the W-League was unheard of and every game we went into was added pressure to get a result."
But after their three-season dominance, City missed the Finals Series for the first time in 2018/19, finishing fifth. The sheen of invincibility that made the club so formidable had been somewhat diminished.
"I guess it had to happen sooner or later," Tabain said.
"There were obviously a few changes to the team, but I think the biggest factors were the team not clicking together on the field and other clubs stepping up and recruiting better quality players than they had before.
"Other teams were able to find their groove earlier than previous years and in such a short season it became very costly for the club."
The question remains - can the club, bolstered by a huge off-season in the transfer window, reassert themselves as the Westfield W-League force to be reckoned with in 2019/20?
First five fixtures
Newcastle Jets (a)
Canberra United (a)
Adelaide United (H)
Sydney FC (a)
Melbourne Victory (H)
FIXTURES: Melbourne City's 2019/20 Season Draw
Tabain's players to watch
Ellie Carpenter and Emily van Egmond
"The signings of Ellie Carpenter and Emily van Egmond are big for the club.
"Both players are great on the ball, strong and competitive. They will bring their own qualities to the team and a high level of international experience.
"Signings like these will only boost City’s chances of playing finals football again."
Emma Checker Story
Emily van Egmond Story
Kyah Simon Story
Melissa Barbieri Story
Nia Stamatopoulos Story
Rhali Dobson Story
Tyla-Jay Vlajnic Story
Ellie Carpenter Story
Lydia Williams Story
Lauren Barnes Story
Yukari Kinga Story
Steph Catley Story
Claire Emslie Story
Melbourne City squad 2019/20
Lydia Williams, Melissa Barbieri, Lauren Barnes, Steph Catley, Emma Checker, Rhali Dobson, Ellie Carpenter, Emily Van Egmond, Claire Emslie, Chelsea Blissett, Sofia Sakalis, Nia Stamatopoulos, Tyla-Jay Vlajnic, Yukari Kinga, Kyah Simon.
"It’s never easy to predict these things this early without seeing how a team gels on the pitch but I think we will see them in the grand final again.
"There is a lot of quality within the squad so I think if they can unite as a playing group and play a positive style of football, they will be difficult to stop."