City v Victory: 3 key derby match ups

There is a different buzz around Victoria's capital this week with Victory heading into the Melbourne Derby in a sudden slump, while City are flying with 14 goals in their past three matches.

City have generally held their own against their local rivals, with five wins and four draws from 17 matches, although they have lost the past three derbies.

But a win on Saturday night will firmly install John van 't Schip's City as a major contender for the 2015-16 Hyundai A-League title - here are the key match-ups that could decide the contest.

City playmaker Aaron Mooy v Victory midfielder Rashid Mahazi

The form player of the competition has been involved in more goals than any other player in the A-League this season, with Mooy scoring six goals and notching seven assists - a direct involvement in 13 of City's 27 goals.

If Mooy can find space and time in behind Bruno Fornaroli and Co. Victory could be in for a long night at AAMI Park.

With Victory captain Carl Valeri out indefinitely with inflammation of the brain, which is affecting his balance and coordination, Mahazi has become Kevin Muscat's go-to holding midfielder.

The former Independiente youth player has stepped up impressively in Valeri's absence, starting the past five games.

Mahazi has the engine to keep up with Mooy throughout the 90 minutes but his concentration - and that of his midfield partner Oliver Bozanic - will have to be top-notch if he is to keep the A-League's leading playmaker quiet.

Honours were arguably even between Mahazi and Mitch Nichols of Western Sydney Wanderers last week, but the 23-year-old will need to find another level to cover Mooy, while fouling will rarely be an option due to the Socceroos midfielder's class over a dead-ball.

Victory and City players line up prior to the Melbourne derby.

The Flanks

City and Victory like their wingers to 'cheat' at times, with the likes of Harry Novillo or Fahid Ben Khalfallah staying high to exploit space behind advancing full-backs.

Those tactics could lead to an interesting game of 'Russian roulette', with both coaches potentially gambling on the quality of their forwards to make up for any defensive deficiencies.

If City's Ivan Franjic and Jack Clisby can keep Ben Khalfallah and Kosta Barbarouses quiet, or Victory full-backs Daniel Georgievski and Jason Geria can put the clamps on Novillo and Stefan Mauk, it will be critical to the result of the Melbourne Derby.

Ben Khalfallah has yet to reach the heights of his debut A-League season, while Barbarouses has been one of Victory's best this term - winning the Mark Viduka Medal as best-on-ground in the Westfield FFA Cup Final.

Novillo has exploded over the past month, scoring four goals in as many games, while Mauk is looking more and more comfortable at senior level.

Georgievski struggled against Romeo Castelen in Victory's 2-0 loss at the Wanderers last week.

By contrast, Franjic kept David Carney relatively quiet in City's 4-0 triumph over Newcastle Jets, and the Socceroos full-back teed up both of Mooy's goals.

City holder Erik Paartalu v Victory attacker Gui Finkler

Some of City's best derby performances have been based on frenetic high-pressing, denying Victory any chance to get into their forward third.

Do not be surprised if van 't Schip looks to utilise this tactic - at least at some stage - on Saturday, with Fornaroli and Mooy to push onto Victory's centre-backs and the rest of the team following.

This could see Paartalu and Jacob Melling - if fit - pushing onto Victory's deep-lying midfield pair Bozanic and Mahazi, meaning Finkler may be the loose man in midfield for the title-holders.

Paartalu is not the most mobile holding midfielder in the A-League and generally likes sitting directly in front of City's centre-backs, but if JVS looks to press, the former Brisbane Roar man will have to chase back quickly if Victory break through.

Finkler has shown in the past that he doesn't mind drifting wide to find space - or even deep to link with Bozanic and Mahazi.

Paartalu will have to put in an impressive shift to combine any pressing duties with shutting down Finkler, who despite his laconic style has developed a notable engine in his time in Australia.

If Finkler starts to pull the strings for Victory, it could be a fourth straight derby win for the Big V.

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