Club Preview - Melbourne Victory

Melbourne Victory became the first team to be crowned Hyundai A-League Champions twice after winning a tight Grand Final against Adelaide United in February.

Melbourne Victory became the first team to be crowned Hyundai A-League Champions twice after winning a tight Grand Final against Adelaide United in February. They had been the best side for the majority of the season and duly deserved the reward at the end. However Melbourne-s success seems to come every second year and if you are one that believes in trends, then Melbourne might struggle this year. But given they have had little turnover of players it-s hard to see that happening.

The main thing from Melbourne-s off-season was the ongoing speculation surrounding Kevin Muscat-s and Carlos Hernandez- futures. With Muscat it was whether he would play on again or take on a full time coaching role, while in Hernandez- case it was whether Melbourne could secure his signature on a permanent basis and meet the transfer from his Costa Rican club, Alajuelense. In the end, Victory secured both signatures, Muscat for one year and Hernandez for 3 years, while the likes Archie Thompson, Grant Brebner Rod Vargas, Billy Celeski and Nick Ward all put pen to paper on new deals to stay with the club. Melbourne did lose several players, most notably inaugural goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos, who signed for Norwich City in England. Michael Thwaite and Steve Pantelidis went to Gold Coast United, Sebastian Ryall moved to Sydney FC and Hernandez Costa Rican team mate Jose Luiz Lopez ended his loan spell early to return to his homeland. Only 3 players have been signed by Melbourne, with Wellington Phoenix goalkeeper Glen Moss moving across the Tasman, while Thailand international Surat Sukha was signed after impressing coach Ernie Merrick during the Asian Champions League last year. Promising Victory youth team player Mathew Theodore also earned a full-time contract.

When going through Melbourne-s squad, it-s hard to see a weak link and the re-signing of Hernandez is certainly a smart piece of work, as he was instrumental in their success last year and is set to be an even better player for them this year if he stays fit and healthy. Thompson and Danny Allsopp are the best forward pairing in the league and are well complimented by Ney Fabiano, Ward, grand final hero Tom Pondeljak and Qantas Young Socceroo Nathan Elasi. If there is maybe one weakness it might be defensively and if either Muscat or Rod Vargas are out for any length of time the back up is somewhat inexperienced. In midfield, Billy Celeski had an outstanding season last year and his combination with Hernandez and Pondeljak will be pivotal in Melbourne-s success this season.

Melbourne-s pre-season has also seen them go abroad with a two-game trip to China, where they went 2-1 to both Guangzhou and Tianjin Teda. They also had an eventful road-trip to Queenstown, New Zealand, for a match against Wellington Phoenix in very chilly conditions, although the highlight match of their pre-season was the match against Fulham FC at Etihad Stadium, which they lost 3-0. They ended their programme with a 2-1 win in the annual clash with Adelaide United at Aurora Stadium in Launceston.

It-s hard to see Melbourne not being among the front runners this season, although there appears to be more challengers for their crown this year.

Current Squad: Daniel ALLSOPP, Evan BERGER, Grant BREBNER, Leigh BROXHAM, Billy CELESKI, Nathan ELASI, Carlos HERNANDEZ, Matthew KEMP, Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), Glen MOSS (gk), Kevin MUSCAT (c), Ney Fabiano, Steven PACE, Tom PONDELJAK, Surat SUKHA, Mathew THEODORE, Archie THOMPSON, Rodrigo VARGAS, Daniel VASILEVSKI and Nick WARD.

Re-signed: Evan Berger (2 years), Grant Brebner (1 year), Billy Celeski (2 years), Carlos Hernandez (Alajuelense, Costa Rica - 3 years), Matthew Kemp (2 years), Mitchell Langerak (3 years), Kevin Muscat (1 year), Archie Thompson (2 years), Rodrigo Vargas (2 years), Nick Ward (2 years).

In: Glen Moss (Wellington Phoenix - 2 years), Surat Sukha (Chonburi FC, Thailand - 2 years), Mathew Theodore (Melbourne Victory NYL - 1 Year)

Out: Steve Pantelidis (Gold Coast United), Jose Luis Lopez (Deportivo Saprissa, Cost Rica), Sebastian Ryall (Sydney FC), Michael Theoklitos (Norwich City, England), Michael Thwaite (Gold Coast United).