It is a fixture that always provides intensity, drama and talking points, Melbourne Victory head to Sydney on Saturday to take on a struggling Sydney FC. Victory appears to be the hot favourites, but will face a team desperate to turn their season around.
The big start the Victory has had to the season will continue as they take on a traditional rival in Sydney FC. It looked apparent from Monday’s win over Wellington that not much will change in the renowed Victory system and style, and taking a ‘steady as she goes’ approach to this week. How Victory respond to life after Ange will now be the story of their season and something to keep an eye on over the coming weeks.
Where to even begin with Sydney FC? Despite an opening week win, the club is struggling after a derby defeat to the Wanderers and a loss to Perth last week, despite an improved performance. The ‘glamour’ club are in desperate need of a win, fans aren’t likely to tolerate losing to another major rival. The issue for them is to build on last week, as they come up against a side that will attack and attack and attack.
The symbolism isn’t all very positive, this same fixture saw the end of Ian Crook at Sydney FC. Some on Twitter have called for #FarinaOut, and there were conflicting reports from the Australian’s Ray Gatt and Fairfax’s Seb Hassett on whether this match is the final straw for Frank Farina.
The Ins and Outs
The very stable and balanced Victory XI is in stark contrast with the Sydney FC one. However, the visiting Victory will have to make do without Kosta Barbarouses, who is on international duty. Connor Pain and Andrew Nabbout are like-for-like and are the natural replacements for him.
Sydney FC will likely welcome back Alessandro Del Piero to the starting side, as they continue to deal with a mounting injury toll. There are a few options as to who he will replace, they could drop a midfielder in Matt Thompson or look elsewhere.
The 90 minutes
On paper, Victory will have the stronger of the starting sides but they will need to be more alert and see out the match, unlike their Monday fixture. Their forward half is in form and can have a field day if the Sydney defence imitate Wellington and sits up high. Victory will certainly have the edge over their hosts’ midfield, they will also have Gui Finkler off the bench.
Sydney have looked directionless up forward, often outnumbered and lacking creativity over this opening month. Del Piero returning will only alleviate this matter slightly, if at all. Richard Garcia and Joel Chianese will need to offer more to complement their no.10. They should look to go tight early and try to stifle the Victory front three, and see what comes of it. The end will justify the means, a win is vital and should it be ugly, so be it.
The players to watch
Archie Thompson: Finally finding the back of the net (and remaining onside), the A-League legend has the potential to have a fun night against a side that is at a low ebb. Thompson plays close to the line, on the shoulder of defences and whoever has the task of minding him will have a tough night.
Nick Carle: Working tirelessly in a deeper role than what usually accustomed to, Carle will be relied upon to link up with Del Piero and the wide players to generate attacks. If he is able to do that and at a good pace to catch the opponents out, Sydney’s slim chance of a win becomes just that more hopeful.
The talk of the week:
Farina took quite the bizzare step of lashing out at “the small group of people – who mostly hide behind fake names or no names who hurl mistuths, abuse and personal insults at me, some of the staff and the players” on social media and questioned whether they were real football fans. Farina assured fans “I can promise you that there’s not one player and not one member of the coaching staff who isn’t striving week-in, week-out.”
Kevin Muscat kept coy on who will replace Barbarouses “We’ve got a couple options in wide areas. Andrew Nabbout likes going to Sydney and travelling there as well, so he’ll come in to contention. We’ve trained throughout the week with both (Nabbout and Pain) there.” Remaining wary of Sydney FC, Muscat stressed that it is up to his charges “It’s more how we set up, emulating what other teams have done (vs Sydney FC) doesn’t interest me. It’s more about improving how we defend…we’re going to have to be good on the weekend.”
The potential teams
Vedran Janjetovic (GK), Sebastian Ryall, Nikola Petkovic, Tiago Calvano, Marc Warren, Nick Carle, Ali Abbas, Brett Emerton, Joel Chianese, Alessandro Del Piero, Richard Garcia
Nathan Coe (GK), Jason Geria, Adrian Leijer, Pablo Contreras, Adama Traore, Mark Milligan ©, Leigh Broxham, Mitch Nichols, Connor Pain, Archie Thompson, James Troisi
Victory 2-0 Sydney FC