Melbourne Victory played out a 2-2 draw against Newcastle Jets at Hunter Stadium on Saturday afternoon. That result sees them head into the international break, and a massive clash with Sydney, second on the table but under strength.
The ‘Bogey’ Factor
The term ‘bogey team’ is thrown around loosely in most sports, usually by fans who can’t explain their team’s loss to that one particular side. However, Melbourne Victory do seem to struggle against the Newcastle Jets.
Victory haven’t won in Newcastle since October 2009. In this fixture, of the 14 games played in Newcastle, the Victory have only won twice outside of Melbourne.
It isn’t just the lack of results on the road which is concerning. Victory’s display on Saturday afternoon was sluggish for the first 45 minutes. They failed to create any sort of real chances until they scored, by which time they were already 2-0 down.
Conceding goals should not be Victory’s catalyst for coming into a game.
An away point is always useful but if Muscat’s men are serious about living up to their championship potential, their away form is going to need to improve so that they are dominant and driven from the outset. This will be tested on Saturday when Melbourne travel to Sydney to play Sydney FC.
Victory striker, Besart Berisha, described the match as “tough” and said he was happy with the boys’ performance. He was particularly impressed with the way they fought back from being 2-0 down and “trying to come back and get the result”.
Fielding an Understrength Side
The international fixtures coming up over the weekend have generated much discussion about the need for an international break in the A-League.
Victory lose captain Mark Milligan, full backs Jason Geria, Scott Galloway and Daniel Georgievski, plus wingers Kosta Barbarouses and Connor Pain. As one of the hardest hit teams by the national team call ups, the club has been forced to look to its youth league stocks in order to fill the squad.
There was concern over Archie Thompson, who left training early on Wednesday morning, as well as Gui Finkler, Besart Berisha and Fahid Ben Khalfallah who were not training with the main group on Gosch’s Paddock.
However, all four players have been named in the squad as well as French defender Matthieu Delpierre who returns from injury.
When asked if they would have a team to field on the weekend, defender Adrian Leijer said “[Kevin Muscat’s] put together a really good squad and we’re all comfortable whoever’s going to be out there and we’re sure we can still put out a very strong team”.
Potential line up
Although Victory’s list of absentees is quite long, the squad that has been named to take on Sydney FC is a strong one – a testament to the team’s depth.
A potential 4-3-3 lineup could be fielded on Saturday night.
With Nathan Coe in goal, Delpierre will return to partner Leijer in the heart of defence. Dylan Murnane will start at left back with Leigh Broxham at right back.
Rashid Mahazi will come into the team to join Carl Valeri in the midfield as he did against Wellington Phoenix. Finkler will sit in behind a front three of Khalfallah, Berisha and Thompson.
Melbourne Victory head to Sydney for the next instalment of the Big Blue on Saturday night. They will face the Sky Blues at Allianz Stadium at 7.30pm AEDT. Both teams are unbeaten after five rounds with three wins and two draws each, with Victory ahead of Sydney by virtue of a superior goal difference. Full squads for both teams are listed below.
Sydney FC squad: 1.Ivan NECEVSKI (GK), 2.Sebastian RYALL, 3.Sasa OGNENOVSKI, 4.Pedj BOJIC, 6.Nikola PETKOVIC, 8.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 11.Bernie IBINI, 12.Hagi GLIGOR, 13.Christopher NAUMOFF, 14.Alex BROSQUE (c), 16.Alex GERSBACH, 18.Peter TRIANTIS, 19.Nick CARLE, 20.Vedran JANJETOVIC (GK), 22.Ali ABBAS, 25.George TIMOTHEOU.
***One to be omitted***
Ins: 12.Hagi GLIGOR (promoted), 14.Alex BROSQUE (c) (return from injury), 18.Peter TRIANTIS (promoted), 25.George TIMOTHEOU (promoted)
Outs: 21.Mark JANKO (International Duty), 7.Corey GAMEIRO (International Duty), 17.Terry ANTONIS (International Duty)
Unavailable: 5.Matthew JURMAN (knee).
Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Nathan COE (GK), 6.Leigh BROXHAM (c), 7.Gui FINKLER, 8.Besart BERISHA, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 13.Andrew NABBOUT, 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 17.Matthieu DELPIERRE, 18.Dylan MURNANE, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (GK), 21.Carl VALERI, 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 23.Adrian LEIJER, 26.Jordan BROWN, 31.Kieran DOVER, 32.Milos RIDESIC
**One to be omitted**
Ins: 13.Andrew NABBOUT (promoted), 17.Matthieu DELPIERRE (returns from injury), 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 26.Jordan BROWN, 31.Kieran DOVER, 32.Milos RIDESIC (all promoted)
Outs: 5.Mark MILLIGAN (international duty), 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES (international duty), 11.Connor PAIN (international duty), 15.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI (international duty), 24.Scott GALLOWAY (international duty)
Unavailable: 2.Jason GERIA (international duty)