Derby day mark II will be upon us this Saturday, an occasion in itself despite the two teams being polar opposites as to where they sit on the A-League food chain. Conventional wisdom suggests form goes out the proverbial window when derbies roll around, but form can tell us much.
Kevin Muscat has opted for the ‘steady as she goes’ and ‘don’t fix what ain’t broke’ approach following last week’s win over Perth. For all the obvious reasons, players and coach alike understand the meaning of this derby to the fans who will pack out AAMI Park on Saturday. The underlying issue that may rear its head is the possible need for a striker. Whilst a bevy of smallish and quick wingers is mixed some clever playmakers in the squad, problems have been had in front of goal.
John Aloisi’s side remain at the bottom and winless this A-League season, there is no better time, place or occasion for that to change. Despite always being “up” for a derby, problems still remain for the Heart, particularly when going forward. Harry Kewell starting will go some way to alleviating that ache but it will be on the striker/wingers to convert, as their efforts were mostly abysmal in last week’s encounter against Sydney FC.
The Ins and Outs
The Heart have made no additions to their matchday squad, the only two unavailable for selection (and will be for some time) are Orlando Engelaar (fractured tibia) and Jonathan Germano (calf).
Melbourne Victory will welcome back Archie Thompson to the starting side.
The 90 minutes
The opening derby of the season certainly didn’t reach any great heights in a turgid affair that was the opening hitout for both teams. These derbies are often the hardest to predict, either being cautious affairs where one or both of the teams teams look to avoid losing or a helter-skelter 90 minutes of football.
If Aloisi’s approach is to hit Melbourne on counter, Victory will enjoy most of the possession and have to figure out a way to bypass the towering pairing of Patrick Kisnorbo and Robbie Wielaert. Heart will need to get Kewell on the ball as often as possible to help create for the pacey wing duo, and not hoof long to Michael Mifsud.
Victory have been vulnerable when faced with attackers that will run at them, the chances are, if Heart attack often enough, they will score. Mark Milligan and Leigh Broxham will need to be on their game to snuff out attacks that start from the Heart defence. It will be closer than some might suggest.
Muscat wouldn’t be drawn into John Aloisi and Scott Munn’s comments earlier in the week, where both intimated that Muscat would be under pressure on Saturday “I’m not interested to be honest. John’s got his team to worry about and I’ve certainly got a group that is super, super motivated and had a great week on the track.”
Questions were raised on getting up for a derby, but Muscat wasn’t having any of it. “From my perspective, I’d be disappointed if my players got up for a game more than any other…We’ll be up for this game just as we have been for any other one.”
“We’ve analysed them and the way they play and tactically prepared accordingly. I’m certainly looking forward to my first derby as a coach and look forward to a favourable result.”
The players to watch
Adama Traore: A difference maker last weekend, Traore is arguably Victory’s most reliable player. He’ll be keeping an eye on any attacks down his flank as well as to push forward.
Michael Mifsud: Mentioned by Archie Thompson early in the week after finally getting on the scoresheet for the first time this season, a repeat from Mifsud will need to be on the cards. Much maligned already, he will rely on the service from his teammates.
The likely teams
Melbourne Victory: Nathan Coe (GK), Jason Geria, Adrian Leijer, Pablo Contreras, Adama Traore, Mark Milligan ©, Leigh Broxham, Mitch Nichols, Kosta Barbarouses, James Troisi, Archie Thompson
Melbourne Heart: Andrew Redmayne (GK), Jason Hoffman, Robbie Wielaert, Patrick Kisnorbo, Aziz Behich, Massimo Murdocca, Andrea Migliorini ©, Harry Kewell, Mate Dugandzic, Michael Mifsud, David Williams.