Another installment of the Oz Classico

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Because of the emergence of Victory’s rivalries with Western Sydney, Melbourne Heart and Sydney FC, this fixture doesn’t get much attention as it maybe should. But this rivalry is always an enjoyable one to watch, with another installment coming at AAMI Park at 7:45 tomorrow night.

The issues

This derby could not come at a better time for either side. Melbourne Victory have put their horror spell behind them after wins over Central Coast and Thai side Muangthong United, with their full squad (with the one exception in Adrian Leijer) for Kevin Muscat to choose from. This game will start off Victory’s hectic schedule of Asian Champions League and A-League fixtures, adding up to fourteen games in fifty-nine days.

Adelaide United has surged to third place amid the bottleneck that is the current A-League ladder. Josep Gombau’s vision for his side is slowly coming together, with his players piecing the puzzle week by week. They are coming off an impressive 2-0 home win over Central Coast, where they repeatedly opened the defence with ease. The issue for them now is to maintain it and overcome a side that, in the last meeting, defeated them, 3-0, with ten men.

The ins and outs

It appears Victory will make the one change from last weekend’s ACL qualifier starting XI, with Gui Finkler replacing Kosta Barbarouses. The bench is yet to be decided, with an extended squad named yesterday.

Adelaide will be without the suspended Michael Zullo, but Gombau has selected Tarek Elrich, Jake Barker-Daish and Daniel Bowles in the travelling extended squad.

The 90 minutes

This will be an intriguing contest, and it’s largely due to the fact that both are in form and have a clash in styles. The fans will add to it in the perfect AAMI Park, Adelaide have provided a great travelling turnout in the past.

The key lesson for Adelaide in their last meeting with Victory is to be more decisive and attacking when on the ball. Despite the slow start then and meltdown just before the half-time whistle sounded, Victory pressed them high and eventually the Reds buckled. However, it looks a far different United team as they have burned off other teams in recent weeks, dominating possession and making it count.

If Adelaide’s full-backs are successful charging forward, Victory risks being swamped if their wingers don’t track back with them. This is where it becomes risky for Victory and Adelaide’s biggest chance, who struggle when its defence is exposed and defends better as an eleven rather a back four/five.

On the other hand, Adelaide will have to be wary of a high line that can leave James Troisi and Archie Thompson space to pounce on. They certainly have the players to provide that through ball in Finkler and Tom Rogic.

There will be so many different variables to play out, and being one of the older rivals in the A-League’s short history, this makes it the pick of what is shaping as a great round.

The talk

Kevin Muscat fronted the media on Friday, talking both Adelaide and the upcoming Champions League. Entertainment won’t be in short supply come tomorrow.

“Yeah, hopefully (we’ll get an entertaining contest), that’s the idea. I dare say we’ll worry about us but from our part, we certainly expect to go out and try to entertain and play a nice brand of football.” Muscat said.

“Adelaide have been good recently as well so it all leans toward an entertaining game.”

“Adelaide have gone on a good run and on their day, they’re a good side. I think, without the ball, we’re going to have to be compact and structured. Because once we do win the ball back we cause problems for the opposition, making sure we’re switched on when attacking is important for us.

“For my part, there is certain things they have changed or altered slightly. But our players are certainly aware of that.”

Having been part of these fixtures as both player and now coach, Muscat knows full well what these fixtures mean to the fans and in the context of the season.

“I don’t know if it can mean more, to be honest. The reality is they want to push up the table as much as we do. We’re entering a period where we play a lot of football and I’m excited about that.”

Muscat’s attention is solely on tomorrow night, not looking too far ahead to the club’s clash with Guangzhou Evergrande next Wednesday.

“I can only really worry about tomorrow at this point in time. There’s no point pencilling in a team for Wednesday night because I don’t know the fallout from tomorrow yet. But I dare say, with the number of games we’ve got, it will present opportunities for everyone. “

“It’s challenging yes, but I’m certainly not complaining about being in the Champions League because that’s where we wanted to be. We’ve had a number of disruptions this season, and we’re going to have
more of that.”

Muscat revealed his reasoning behind Finkler’s ACL squad omission.

“Yeah, it was a difficult decision, it was one I was conscious of because he gives us something different. The make-up of our team at the moment suggests it was the logical choice. But he’ll be a big part of what we do in the A-League from here on in.”

The Squads:

Melbourne Victory Squad: 1.Nathan COE (gk), 2.Pablo CONTRERAS, 3.Adama TRAORE, 4.Nick ANSELL, 5.Mark MILLIGAN (c), 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Gui FINKLER, 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.Connor PAIN, 13.Andrew NABBOUT, 14.James TROISI, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (gk), 21.Tom ROGIC, 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 24.Scott GALLOWAY, 25.Jason GERIA
**Two to be omitted**

Ins: 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES (returns from injury), 11.Connor PAIN (promoted), 20.Lawrence THOMAS (gk) (returns from injury), 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS (Promoted), 25.Jason GERIA (promoted)

Outs: 17.James JEGGO (omitted) 30.Keegan COULTER (gk) (Omitted), 23.Adrian LEIJER (facial fractures)

Unavailable: Nil

Adelaide United squad: 1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk) (c), 2.Michael MARRONE, 3.Nigel BOOGAARD, 4.Jon McKAIN, 5.Osama MALIK, 7.JERONIMO, 8.ISAIAS, 9.Sergio CIRIO, 10.Marcelo CARRUSCA, 11.Bruce DJITE, 14.Cameron WATSON, 16.Daniel BOWLES, 17.Awer MABIL, 19.Jake BARKER-DAISH, 20.Paul IZZO (gk), 21.Tarek ELRICH, 22.Fabio FERREIRA, 23.Jordan ELSEY
**two to be omitted**

Ins: 21.Tarek ELRICH (returns from suspension), 19.Jake BARKER-DAISH (promoted), 16.Daniel BOWLES (promoted)

Outs: 18.Michael ZULLO (suspended- 1 week)

Unavailable: 6.CASSIO (hamstring tendon – indefinite), 15.Jacob MELLING (knee – 2 weeks), 31.Ryan GRIFFITHS (shin soreness – test)

Katie Lambeski

Katie is Football Central's Melbourne Victory correspondent. She describes herself as a mad football fan who also likes to write about it. Follow Katie on twitter @katielambeski

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