It’s a mystery how we didn’t witness any goals when these two fierce rivals clashed at Allianz Stadium last month, so let’s hope they make up for that when Hyundai A-League front-runners and competition heavyweights Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC meet on Saturday at Etihad.
Etihad Stadium, Melbourne
Kick-Off: 7:30 PM (Local) (7:30 PM AEDT)
Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Nathan COE (GK), 2.Jason GERIA, 4.Nick ANSELL, 5.Mark MILLIGAN (c), 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Gui FINKLER, 8.Besart BERISHA, 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.Connor PAIN, 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 15.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (GK), 21.Carl VALERI, 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 23.Adrian LEIJER, 24. Scott GALLOWAY
**two to be omitted**
Ins: 7.Gui FINKLER (returns from injury), 24.Scott GALLOWAY (returns from injury)
Unavailable: 17.Matthieu DELPIERRE (foot – tbc)
Sydney FC squad: 1.Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 2.Seb RYALL, 3.Sasa OGNENOVSKI, 4.Pedj BOJIC, 5.Matt JURMAN, 6.Nikola PETKOVIC, 8.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 11.Bernie IBINI, 13.Christopher NAUMOFF, 14.Alex BROSQUE (c), 16.Alex GERSBACH, 17.Terry ANTONIS, 18.Peter TRIANTIS, 19.Nick CARLE, 20.Vedran JANJETOVIC (gk), 21.Mark JANKO, 23. Rhyan GRANT
**two to be omitted**
Ins: 2.Seb RYALL (return from suspension), 3.Sasa OGNENOVSKI (return from injury), 21.Mark JANKO (return from injury)
Outs: 25.Aaron CALVER (returns to NYL)
Unavailable: 7.Corey GAMEIRO (knee – indefinite), 22.Ali ABBAS (knee – indefinite)
TV Broadcast: Live and exclusive coverage on FOX SPORTS 505 from 7.00pm (AEDT) and Sky Sport 4 (New Zealand)
Radio Broadcast: 774 ABC Melbourne, Local Radio VIC, 702 ABC Sydney & ABC Local Radio NSW, Grandstand Digital, Online / ABC Radio Mobile phone app
Referee: Peter Green
Assistant Referee 1: Luke Brennan
Assistant Referee 2: Jonathan Barreiro
Fourth Official: Patrick Chaplin
It’s the irresistible force of Melbourne Victory versus Sydney FC’s immovable object as the headline act of Round 10 in the Hyundai A-League this weekend.
Both teams are close to where their demanding fans expect them to be – at the right end of the table and showing every sign of pushing for the major honours they believe are theirs by divine right.
Victory have climbed to second spot by becoming the competition’s entertainers, having scored a league-high 21 goals and conceded just eight.
Sydney, meanwhile, have been transformed from the inconsistent outfit headlined by Alessandro Del Piero in the previous two seasons to a hard-nosed, organised side moulded in Graham Arnold’s image.
That being said, there is no shortage of flair either in the Sky Blues’ ranks, as demonstrated by Bernie Ibini’s remarkable solo goal in the derby away to Western Sydney in Round 8.
All those factors combine to make for a mouth-watering contest on Saturday night.
OPTA DATA STATS
– Melbourne Victory have scored the most goals so far this season (21), while only Sydney and Adelaide (seven) have conceded fewer goals than the Big V (eight).
– In fact, Sydney are the only side Victory have failed to score against this season.
– Victory are the only side still undefeated after nine games this season. They’ve not gone 10 without defeat since October 2007 (including play-offs).
ROUTE TO GOAL
Victory made light of the absence of playmaker Guilherme Finkler by beating the Central Coast Mariners 3-0 away from home last time out – on the cricket field at North Sydney Oval no less.
Finkler is back in the squad but it remains to be seen if the Brazilian is ready to make an instant return to the starting XI.
If he misses out again, expect Fahid Ben Khalfallah, Kosta Barbarouses and Archie Thompson to be charged with supplying Besart Berisha at the point of the attack.
Towering centre-forward Marc Janko is back in the squad for Sydney FC. The Austrian, if selected, will lead the line ahead of a combination of Bernie Ibini, Alex Brosque and Shane Smeltz.
WHO’S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?
Sydney announced on Thursday that assistant coach Rado Vidosic has been given leave to return to his family home in Brisbane for personal reasons, although he will continue to assist Graham Arnold with tactical analysis and video work.
It remains to be seen what effect the loss of a key backroom staffer will have on the impressive Sky Blues, who rely heavily on their preparation and organisation.
Victory are the only unbeaten team left in the Hyundai A-League this season and have won their last three matches in succession, beating the Mariners 3-0 on the road, Adelaide 3-2 and Brisbane Roar 1-0, the latter two results coming at home.
DID YOU KNOW?
Victory have won only one of their last six meetings with Sydney, 2-1 in the finals in April 2014.
Melbourne Victory 2-1 Sydney FC
We’re expecting this to be another tight one, but Victory are in marginally better form and looking sharper in attack. They will need to be smart in the final third and take what chances they are presented or can carve out, but if luck is on their side, the hosts will win this one and send a message to fellow frontrunners Perth Glory.
For Sydney, another organised, disciplined performance must combine with efficient, ruthless counter-attacking if the Sky Blues are to head back to the Harbour City with maximum spoils. Anything can happen on Saturday, but a home win is likely to be the marginal favourite.