Melbourne Victory can take a huge step towards the Westfield W-League Finals Series when it visits Canberra United on Thursday.
League leader Victory was last in competitive action during a 1-0 Derby win over City on January 5.
Despite having a bye in Round 11, it retained top spot on the table, sitting two points clear late in the season.
Victory is well-placed to reach the finals for the first time since 2014, although it still has work to do heading into its trip to Seiffert Oval in Queanbeyan, New South Wales.
Star midfielder Christine Nairn was the hero in the Derby, scoring direct from a corner in the 88th minute.
It marked a second straight win for Victory, which has two away games as part of its three to finish the regular season.
Nairn's goal was her third of the campaign, with only captain Natasha Dowie (eight) having netted more for Victory.
The American also moved into equal sixth for most goals for Victory with eight.
Canberra is also pushing for a spot in the finals, sitting seventh – three points adrift of fourth.
Head coach Jeff Hopkins' pre-match thoughts
on the feeling in the squad after the bye…
"A couple of players said on Tuesday night how good the training has been over the last few days. I think the trip to the Gold Coast was good to bring the group together. We've had a few good sessions since we've been back. I think the game (against China) actually gave us something to focus on over that period. Sometimes you can just kind of float through that week without any real purpose and I think it gave us a bit of purpose and kept us training, kept the edge on our game and it's a really good exercise for us."
on facing Canberra…
"It's going to be a tough game. I really rate that team. They play a little bit different to most of the other teams, they use wing-backs, a back three, and obviously the two wing-backs are very effective, they get forward very, very well, but also both of them have got great engines, Ellie Carpenter especially, to get up and to get back into those defensive positions so very effective going forward, but also very hard to break down so we've been working on a few things over the last couple of days and we've maybe seen a couple of things we can exploit. But we're expecting a real tough game, which is what we expect at this stage of the season."
on his team's form…
"I thought we played very well in the Perth game, I think we created a lot of chances, played some really good attacking football. On the other side of that, the City game we had to dig deep at times and rely on our back four and our goalkeeper and our work rate, which sometimes you have to do. I think it's going to be a pretty physical game, they're a fit side, they get forward quite quickly as well. We're going to have to make sure we're right on our game and hopefully we've got the right mix of work rate, of defensive qualities. When we've got that side of things right this season, the possession and the attacking penetration has looked after itself so we've worked reasonably hard on the defensive side of things and hopefully the attacking side of things will come from being a good, strong, solid defensive unit."
Westfield W-League 2017/18 Round 1
Melbourne Victory 2-1 Canberra United
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Epping Stadium, Melbourne
Victory and Canberra last met at the beginning of the 2017/18 season.
After Kristen McNabb's opener was cancelled out by Michelle Heyman, Dowie scored a 63rd-minute winner for Victory.
As it stands
Canberra United v Melbourne Victory
Seiffert Oval, Queanbeyan
Thursday, January 17, 2019
Kick-off: 7.30pm AEDT