Beware the wounded Victory

Footballers love the cliché about the wounded animal - but ahead of the Hyundai A-League 2011/12 finals series, Melbourne Victory could just be the beast that will leave a few scars.

Footballers love the cliché about the wounded animal - but ahead of the Hyundai A-League 2011/12 finals series, Melbourne Victory could just be the beast that will leave a few scars.

Underperforming on the pitch, saddled with a lack of defenders and criticised by just about every media outlet for their poor performances, plenty of people at Victory still have a lot to prove as the season winds down.

Mathematically Melbourne may still be a chance to make the finals, but in reality just one point to either cross-town rivals Melbourne Heart or Newcastle Jets will end their chances.

One would imagine the Jets will do that this weekend when they take on Gold Coast, who likely have other things on their mind.

Heart though have difficult matches with in-form Wellington and a determined Sydney before ultimately taking on Adelaide in the final round, a match that should guarantee John van ‘t Schip-s young side a finals berth.

So where does that leave Victory?

The short answer is out of the finals and out in the cold. The A-League-s biggest club won-t take part in the finals for the third time in their seven-year history with what would be their worst-ever finish of eighth, should the ladder remain the same.

So where to for Victory over the last three rounds?

They hope against hope for some spectacular results to go their way and they collect the maximum nine points. And it-s not like they don-t have the firepower to achieve that.

Archie Thompson and Mark Milligan are current Qantas Socceroos, Carlos Hernandez is a freakish talent who can score from anywhere on the park and Harry Kewell, despite not bringing the Victory the success they so desired when signing him is still arguably the best player in the competition.

Still, the chances are remote.

But what Victory do represent is pure nuisance value, if they can begin to upend the finals hopes of their rivals from this weekend.

And where better to start than Sydney FC?

Despite the Melbourne derby-s growing significance, the rivalry between the Sky Blues and Victory runs deeper. With Harry Kewell back in his hometown, a result for Melbourne would kill off Sydney-s equally disappointing season, pulling both into the mire of mediocrity.

From there Victory take on Wellington Phoenix, who seem to have gotten over their malaise away from home, but not against a Victory side who have hammered them mercilessly over the years, owning a record of six wins, six draws and 2 losses over time, with two wins already on the board this season.

Regardless of Victory-s form this season, a visit to Etihad is not something any team seeking a top-two finish and a home final would look forward to. A win for Melbourne could mean Phoenix facing yet another difficult cross-country trip in the finals series.

Victory travel to Perth for their final game of the season, which hasn-t been a happy hunting ground for them in the past, but a surprise here would not only dent Perth-s finals hopes and plans for a home game, but if the Heart stumble against Adelaide could mean the Victory have a final roll of the dice, if they had won their two games coming into the finals.

Realistically, Victory-s finals dreams look to be over but they could just give some of their biggest rivals nightmares.