In what has become an annual fixture, the original rivalry will have another chapter written on Australia Day this Sunday at Etihad Stadium.
Victory arguably paid the price of their heavy schedule last Saturday, succumbing to a rampant and in-form Wellington in a 5-0 loss. However, the players now have the chance to turn it around, having looked so listless and out of form, it should be known that they are much better than what they showed and have the chance to prove it again this Sunday.
The same problems week in, week out are still plaguing Sydney, as fan patience continues to wear thin after Frank Farina’s team have collected just one point from a possible fifteen out of their last five fixtures. They are coming off a listless loss of their own to Central Coast last weekend, and it could be argued the scoreline flattered them.
It has been a huge week of news in the A-League this week, especially with the news that Victory had snared the signatures of Tom Rogic and Besart Berisha. While the news of Rogic’s signing is perfect for Victory at the perfect time, the question needs to be whether Rogic should be returning to the A-League at this time of his career. While it suits the short-term and the purpose of getting him to the World Cup, the long-term is a different question.
The news that Berisha will join Victory come the end of the season is even bigger. Being 28 years old and taking the international marquee spot, this is a no-lose situation for Victory as they have recruited the league’s best striker. On the same day, the club announced its captain Mark Milligan will stay at the club after an offer was pulled by UAE club Bani Yas. Due to his standout performances over the last two years, he will be constantly the subject of speculation come transfer season. Will he secure a big money move to another club post-World Cup?
News came out of Sydney FC that they were after Rogic and Berisha themselves, as well as the subject of interest from the owners of Manchester City F.C (before they opted for Melbourne Heart), according to chairman Scott Barlow in an interview with Fairfax journalist Sebastian Hassett. Football Central’s own Nick Anderson had his say about the Sky Blues here.
The ins and outs
Extended squads were named on Thursday by both Farina and Kevin Muscat, Victory have included Rogic, Andrew Nabbout (returning from injury) and all four players (Nick Ansell, Jason Geria, Connor Pain and Scott Galloway) that were representing Australia at the under-22 AFC Championships.
Adama Traore will miss through suspension after collecting his fifth yellow card against Wellington, while Jesse Makarounas, Chris Cristaldo and Jordan Brown have been replaced.
Youth players Hagi Gligor and Chris Naumoff have been included in the Sydney squad, of which two will be omitted.
The 90 minutes
Farina’s team’s greatest strength is putting in the honest shift and scrapping for the result, it paid off in a famous 3-2 win over their old enemy in Sydney earlier in the season. Victory didn’t get much of a look in after an open and dizzying first half as Sydney held them off and made the Victory pay for defensive mistakes. They are in a similar situation as they were before kick-off in their earlier fixture with Melbourne, can they pull off the same result?
Victory, back at home in front of a big crowd at Eithad and with Rogic in tow making his club debut, will fancy their chances but will need to rely on the speed of their attacks to open Sydney up at the back. The longer Victory plays to their strengths and attack the better their chances will be, but they will miss Adama Traore’s attacking qualities as well as his defense.
Nikola Petkovic and Ranko Despotovic will be keys at both ends of the park for Sydney FC, the form men have been the silver linings in the constant dark clouds around Moore Park. A hit-and-run approach, an early goal against an admittedly shaky defence followed by parking the bus, looks an obvious strategy based on the last encounter.
It is hard to see anything other than a Victory win, but in derby matches like this one, current form and the table, it all goes out the window.