In their second meeting this season, Melbourne Victory head to Perth to take on the Glory at NIB Stadium.
The past fortnight could not have been any worse for Melbourne Victory after two 5-0 losses in a row, and now the pressure to bounce back immediately. A lethargic forward half, overrun midfield and exposed defence have been the features of a disastrous two weeks. A long trip to Perth will be followed by one to Central Coast and this leaves Kevin Muscat’s side in a precarious position at a crucial time in the season.
Having had to reassess after the sacking of Alistair Edwards, it is hard to know what to expect from Perth at this point. Edwards’ successor Kenny Lowe has, in the past month, guided his team to seven points from a potential twelve in four fixtures. They have been active in the transfer market, with Rostyn Griffiths returning to the A-League, adding to the arrivals of midfielder Nebojsa Marinkovic last week and now the signing of striker Darvydas Sernas.
The ins and outs
Former captain Adrian Leijer, for the third time this season, will miss through suspension which means Nick Ansell will return to a starting spot. Gui Finkler and Tom Rogic also are likely starters, Muscat did confirm Rogic will get his first start for the club as James Triosi and Kosta Barbarouses will be the ones to make way.
How Lowe sets up his team is hard to tell at this stage, but his imports all available for selection. Marinkovic is set for a start at his new club, based on his cameo against the Wanderers last weekend. Sernas may join him as the other inclusion.
The 90 minutes
At home and in much better form than their opponents are at this point in time, Perth should go in as the favourites. Lowe should learn from the timid and toothless effort in their fixture against Victory in Melbourne earlier in the season and should attack them from the outset and throughout. Last week, Victory were susceptible when playing out from the back and if Perth attack high up the pitch, that will have their opponents on the back foot.
Victory’s efforts need to be much better, not one player can claim to be at his best over the last two games against Wellington and Sydney FC. Their strengths are well defined, and when it works, it is highly effective and a joy to watch. Putting in the hard shift will be a requirement, and the forward half will have to track back, something they haven’t done over the past weeks. Victory will have to overturn a poor record in Perth, which is, in itself, a big task for any opposition team.
Perth’s defence, who have William Gallas back in its ranks, haven’t conceded in their last three home games. Victory’s attack is toothless and reactive in its current form so back Perth to make it four in a row.
A belief in the system and style his team plays has been a recurring theme in Muscat’s press conferences, Thursday’s was no different. “It’s been a tough fortnight, obviously something we can’t shy away from. Our application in what we’re trying to do has got to be a lot better,” Muscat said.
After the disastrous results, Muscat admitted to assessing himself and his players over the week. “I wanted to see a reaction during the week and have everyone stand up and prove that they want to play for the football club and I have had that reaction from everyone this week. It’s not been an easy week and a lot of egos have been dented.”
“When we apply ourselves within the structure, we’ve been a match for any team. Trying to find the consistency…has been difficult.
“The last couple days has been about working hard in what we’re trying to do. I’m looking forward to a positive reaction tomorrow night.
“I certainly believe in what we’re trying to do here. But without doubt I assessed myself after last week.”