Another instalment of a burgeoning rivalry will take place at 7:45pm on Saturday as Melbourne Victory host Brisbane Roar.
Results have gone the way of Melbourne Victory heading into this clash, this is a huge opportunity to roar (pun intended) back into contention for the top spot as they now have the chance to peg back the Roar’s commanding lead. It certainly did help to have the Wanderers lose to a travelling Wellington mid-week. This is the classic “six point” fixture for Victory and it comes at a critical time in the season.
Brisbane, despite the injuries and international duty disruptions they’ve had over the season, has been winning both well and ugly at times. They’ve risen to the top with a minimum of fuss and look like they’ll remain thereabouts this season. Mike Mulvey’s squad depth will take a hit with Kwame Yeboah’s departure, but Dimitri Petratos stepped up to fill that void.
The ins and outs
Brisbane have announced an unchanged squad, but Mulvey (as written on here by Michael Flynn) is yet to decide on the shape of his back four as James Donachie will miss. They are still without Besart Berisha and Shane Staffanutto.
Melbourne Victory, pending on training, will welcome Gui Finkler back to the starting XI and it will likely be at the expense of winger Connor Pain. Pablo Contreras hasn’t recovered from his thigh strain and will miss this week, Nick Ansell to be his replacement. Archie Thompson will miss his fourth match in succession.
The 90 minutes
With arguably two of the best pure footballing sides in the A-League and in the best football stadium in Australia, this has the potential to be match of the season. Brisbane will have the same issues to resolve in the last match they had with Victory, creating that penetration without their key target man in Besart Berisha.
Victory will need to find a way to make their play and possession count where it matters most, they have repeatedly fell short against teams just above them on the table. Their best is good enough to beat those teams, making life even more frustrating for the fans. They have found success against teams that attack and play a higher line, so they will remain with a glimmer of hope there come tomorrow night.
Anywhere you look in the Brisbane squad there is class, it is a side that can play out from the back and through its opponents. Expect an end-to-end contest for most part and both sides to attack, attack and attack. Trying to outnumber and overwhelm the Roar will be a key for a Melbourne win, if that happens, the Roar may be forced to tough it out on occasion.
The players to watch
Dimitri Petratos: With Yeboah leaving, more opportunities will come for the former Sydney-sider. He made his opportunity count last weekend against his former side, an in-form striker is always dangerous.
Gui Finkler: After the clamour for his inclusion over the past month, Finkler will finally get a chance at his first start of the season. How he fits in with his midfield cohorts will be something to watch for, he should be able to provide the creative difference that has lacked in the Victory side.
Despite questions, Kevin Muscat wouldn’t be drawn into commenting on the suspended deduction of championship points for fan misbehaviour, insisting he had a match to prepare for, he said: “I’m obviously preparing for a game tomorrow night, the football club certainly doesn’t condone any anti-social behaviour, from my perspective, if the football club feels the need to release a statement they will in due course…I haven’t given it too much thought.”
Muscat also confirmed Contreras will miss and Finkler, pending on training, will make a start. Muscat had nothing but praise for the no.7 at his Friday press conference.
“He’s a talented footballer and technically gifted. Certainly Gui, in that final third, can unlock defences with his vision and passes. He certainly adds something a little bit different to the team in that final third.”
Muscat also addressed speculation surrounding Mitch Nichols’ future amidst talk of a move to J-League side Cerezo Osaka.
“They haven’t come back with an improved offer, and I’m not sure if its still rumbling, we’ll have to wait and see. The reality is Mitch is only human and obviously he’s had to give it some thought over the last weeks, but he is a required player.”
Finally, Muscat addressed the weekend’s clash: “They pose a good challenge to us, it’ll be a good football game tomorrow night. Last week was a spectacle, two teams really going at each other and trying to win a football game, I’m excited about tomorrow.”
“From our perspective, we’re still creating a number of chances and in that final third, once we control that ball in the final third we cause every defence in this competition problems.”
The likely teams
Brisbane Roar: Michael Theo (GK), Corey Brown, Matt Smith ©, Jade North, Ivan Franjic, Matt McKay, Liam Miller, Luke Brattan, Thomas Broich, Dimitri Petratos, Henrique
Melbourne Victory: Nathan Coe (GK), Jason Geria, Adrian Leijer, Nick Ansell, Adama Traore, Mark Milligan ©, Leigh Broxham, Mitch Nichols, Gui Finkler, Kosta Barbarouses, James Troisi