Tonight will see an all-Victorian FFA Cup semi-final when Hume City meet Melbourne Victory. The clash will take place at one of Victory’s home grounds in AAMI park despite NPL side Hume City being the “home” team. Whilst the decision to move the clash to AAMI was made by the FFA, Hume would have relinquished home advantage anyway with their preferred venue being Etihad.
Hume have lit up the competition so far with their aggressive, direct style of play. Attackers Marcus Schroen and Theo Markelis have scored seven goals between them as Lou Acevski’s men have claimed three wins against state-level opponents. In pursuit of an A-League scalp it will be all about restricting the reigning top-flight champions with Acevski telling The Age, “the longer we can keep it to 0-0 tomorrow night (it) gives us a better opportunity”.
Hume will be buoyed by their recent hit-outs against the two Victorian A-League clubs, having run Victory close in a 4-3 loss before defeating City 2-0 last week. However whilst these clashes have assisted Hume in doing “everything well to prepare” themselves according to Acevski, they simply cannot compare to the match fitness of the Victory heading into this semi-final.
Three weeks into their title defence Victory are yet to find their dominant form of last season. Their shock loss to Newcastle Jets on Friday may indicate one of two things: that they are yet to hit their straps, or that they are simply not as good as last season. Coach Kevin Muscat will be desperate to prove the latter scenario wrong, and it could be a walkover should the men in Blue hit their straps.
Ever-hungry striker Besart Berisha has found the net three times already this tournament, and whilst they have lacked goalscoring form in the league, they continue to boast an abundance of options through the middle. Victory were untroubled against Adelaide United in the quarter finals but they did display signs of instability in the match prior against Rockdale, in which a late own-goal ensured a tense finish to the match with Victory sneaking through by a single goal. Hume will be hoping to replicate and improve upon the feats of Rockdale. Should they be able to cause an upset despite the home-ground and fitness advantages they concede to a side already far superior in quality, they will pull off one of the greatest upsets in Australian football history.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
1. THEO MARKELIS: The former Victory-man has been one of many standouts for Hume in the FFA Cup this season. Adding to his three goals so far in the tournament has added incentive against his former side as he looks to show the Victory what they gave up as he rebuilds his career following his A-League axeing.
2. GUI FINKLER: The mercurial Brazilian broke the game apart against Adelaide in the semi-final, his free kick from the edge of the box giving his side a first half lead from which they did not look back. Should Hume stifle Victory in open play expect his set-piece prowess to become a factor.
3. MATT HENNESSEY: The 18-year-old defender has missed just half an hour of Hume’s first three matches, and is expected to play a crucial role again. Hume’s entire defensive unit have gone unheralded as a result of their attacking dominance, but they will be the most important players for the side on this occasion.
4. BESART BERISHA: The Albanian is the Victory’s most clinical finisher, something which will be of paramount importance should Hume deprive them of chances in attack. He is one goal short of joining Cirio and Marinkovic as the FFA Cup’s top scorers.