In their final clash this season, both Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory will both be desperate for three points when they meet at NIB Stadium on Saturday night. (7:45 local time, 9:45pm AEDT)
Consistency is the key for Melbourne Victory after the past month of performances have left many thinking which Victory will turn up each time. An intriguing end run to the season awaits them, it has been a soap opera drama with departures and arrivals in a short space of time. This fixture comes after a 2-2 ACL home draw with Jeonbuk Motors on Wednesday, and it appears as if there will be as many as four changes to the side.
Perth have resembled a basket case in recent weeks, with their last win coming two months and four days ago, which was against an out-of-form Melbourne Heart. They have looked slow and toothless going forward, but there were some positive signs to come out of their 1-1 draw in Wellington last week.
The ins and outs
For Victory, it appears there will be four changes to Tuesday’s starting side, with Gui Finkler, Archie Thompson, James Troisi and Pablo Contreras to replace Jesse Makarounas, Andrew Nabbout, Kosta Barbarouses and Jason Geria, if their Friday training session is any indicator.
Adrian Leijer is still unavailable as he continues to make his way back from facial injuries. Despite the heavy schedule, Victory has remained, for most part, injury free and that is to the fitness/coaching staff’s credit.
Perth will be without Shane Smeltz, whose injury-riddled season goes from bad to worse with a groin injury expected to keep him out for two weeks. Ryan Edwards and Riley Woodcock have been called up to an extended squad.
The 90 minutes
Victory can be considered favourites here, despite the poor record in Perth in the past. The last match between these two was in round seventeen at NIB Stadium, and yielded a point each.
Perth need to learn from the last encounter (in which they were very pedestrian) and will be much better off by attacking, attacking and then attacking some more.
Victory’s defensive issues are well known and Kenny Lowe should set his side up to exploit that. The visitors will look to play this match in their well-defined way, if they are successful in doing that, then Perth will need a big effort from their centre-backs.
Kevin Muscat clearly realised earlier in the week that his side needs all three points if they are going to displace the Wanderers in second place and it appears he planned accordingly.
Thompson, Troisi and Finkler all missed the midweek fixture and will be fresh as a result. Victory’s approach has not changed all season so far, so do not expect anything different here.
Muscat previewed the match at his Friday press conference.
“We were there not so long ago, we certainly know it’s not easy to go over there and win. It’s one we’re optimistic about, we’re looking forward to it. It’s a good opportunity to go over there and bring three points back to Melbourne.”
“It gets to this time of the season, and everyone’s desperate for different reasons. I expect a desperate Perth outfit trying to take three points, especially at home. From our perspective, it’s the same. I expect both teams to really go at it come tomorrow night, and hopefully that creates a good game of football.”
“I don’t think I’ve made excuses any time, we go there with a realistic opinion of ourselves that we can win.”
Despite seven changes to the team from the Mariners match to the Jeonbuk fixture, Muscat was straightforward about the realities of his team’s amount of fixtures.
“The reality is we’ve got a huge amount of games in a short period of time. I’m gonna pick the best available team to try win a football game, and that’s based on a number of factors.”
Despite being a late withdrawal before the Central Coast Mariners clash last Friday, and still dealing with discomfort, Adama Traore will be right to go tomorrow.
“He’s pulled up ok. It an ongoing situation where he’s a bit of discomfort, but he’s a tough boy. On Wednesday, he was up against a difficult opponent and he did well.” Muscat said.
Muscat understands the need for a more consistent Victory, despite the ever-changing XI’s put out on the field.
“Consistency in performance is far more important than consistently picking the same team, reality suggests, we’re not in a position to do that. If everyone’s fit, we’re still not in that position because of the amount of games we’ve got. The focus is finding a consistency in our performances regardless of who’s out there.”