It helps when you have two in-form teams, but nothing beats a derby. The third instalment of the Melbourne derby will take place tomorrow night at AAMI Park, and is sure not to disappoint.
Melbourne Victory do not have much time to prepare for this huge clash, after their midweek trip to Guangzhou, but it can argued the best preparation is playing against a quality a side. Defence is where Victory’s biggest issue is, and has been for some time. The defence will be re-shuffle again as Pablo Contreras will miss through suspension. Goals have been in full supply as of late and it has been their biggest asset in turning the season around.
John van’t Schip is Heart’s own miracle worker, helping make this squad into a realistic finals contender. Having Orlando Engelaar back has worked a treat, given the midfield desperately needing an anchor. Their attacks lacked purpose earlier in the season, but now that’s changed through a quick and mobile front third of Mate Dugandzic, David Williams and Iain Ramsay. They can be considered favourites and it would be strange to be writing this two months ago, but every good story has to end sometime.
The ins and outs
Kevin Muscat’s team will be finalised tomorrow after the fallout from Wednesday night and its aftermath is fully known. Dylan Murnane is the only addition to the squad that traveled to China mid-week, replacing Jordan Brown.
For Heart, Patrick Gerhardt and Aziz Behich will miss through suspension, replaced by Harry Kewell and Robbie Wielaert respectively. Michael Mifsud and former Victory youth product Luke O’Dea have been added to the extended squad.
The 90 minutes
The potential is there for this to be the match of the season. Both sides are exciting in attack, and will offer their respective opposition defences a tough night. This will present a challenge for Victory, who will be best placed to controll the tempo of the match, however, that has not been something they been able to do on a consistent basis.
For the Heart, it’s a case of the quicker the better. Playing the match at a fast pace, which it is sure to be, may suit them as they will aim to run their opponents ragged and out of position. Van’t Schip is a shrewd coach, the case in point being in his side’s 5-0 defeat of Wellington where they showed up well prepared.
Engelaar and Mark Milligan will have lead roles to play for their clubs. In terms of maintaining structure, winning the ball and starting attacks, their coaches will look to them. Having a fresh Gui Finkler and potentially Tom Rogic is a bonus for Victory, how they are dealt with by Heart will be something to watch for throughout.
Kevin Muscat talked about the midweek match in Guangzhou and the derby preparations at his Friday press conference.
“There’s plenty to take out of it, in all forms. That first half of football from ourselves, I couldn’t be more proud, the way we stuck to a structure and a game-plan was tremendous. When you consider that Guangzhou didn’t concede a goal at home throughout their campaign last year, for us to go there and take it to them was pleasing. Also, we’ll take a lot from the second half. But at this point in time we worry about tomorrow night…It was a positive experience and a learning experience for the players involved.”
Muscat announced there would be at least one change, and was pleased to come back to a derby game.
“We have to reassess the squad tomorrow morning and get another check from the medical team. Gui stayed back here, so he’ll come in to the team and as for Tommy, I couldn’t tell you at this point in time.”
“There’s the normal knocks but it’s a good game to come back to after travelling. No-one is telling me they’re unavailable, everyone wants to play tomorrow. The derby is something special.”
Not too much attention was given by Muscat, who has always maintained throughout his tenure so far that is what all about what his team does.
“You’ll have to ask John (what they’re doing differently). I’ve focused mainly more on ourselves and we’ve analysed them over the past couple games and been mindful of where they’re at. They’re scoring goals now, taking opportunities…and playing some good football, it’ll be a good game.”
“Like all derbies, we expect them to be fired up and they’ll come into the game with some confidence.”
“The atmospheres in these games are tremendous, I dare say it’s another home game for us, the majority of the crowd will be blue. I’m looking forward to getting back to AAMI Park and producing another good performance.”