Two powerhouses collide in a worthy climax to the 2016/17 Hyundai A-League season. Will the Sky Blues from Sydney complete their all-conquering campaign or can Melbourne Victory trip them up at the final hurdle and win a fourth Championship?
Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory
Sunday, 7 May 2017
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-Off: 5:00pm (AEST)
Referee: Jarred Gillett
Assistant Referee 1: David Walsh
Assistant Referee 2: Matthew Cream
Fourth Official: Peter Green
Fifth Official: Owen Goldrick
Video Assistant Referee: Strebre Delovski
TV Broadcast: Live coverage on Fox Sports 505 from 4.00pm (AEST) and delayed coverage on SBS VICELAND from 5.30pm AEST
Radio Broadcast: ABC News (on Radio), ABC Digital Extra, Online & via the ABC Radio Mobile App – A-league Live, Crocmedia A-League Live (www.facebook.com/A-leagueLIVERadio), 1116 SEN (Melbourne), EON Sports Radio (eonsportsradio.com)
Join the conversation on Twitter using the hash-tag #ALeagueGF
To purchase tickets visit www.aleague.com.au
Sydney FC squad: 1.Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 4.Alex WILKINSON, 5.Jordy BUIJS, 6.Joshua BRILLANTE, 7.Michael ZULLO, 8.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 9.BOBÔ, 10.Milos NINKOVIC, 11.Bernie IBINI, 13.Brandon O’NEILL, 14.Alex BROSQUE (c), 17.David CARNEY, 18.Matt SIMON, 19.George BLACKWOOD, 20.Danny VUKOVIC (GK), 21.Filip HOLOSKO, 22.Seb RYALL, 23.Rhyan GRANT **two to be omitted**
Ins: 19.George BLACKWOOD (promoted), 22.Seb RYALL (promoted)
Melbourne Victory squad: 2.Jason GERIA, 4.Nick ANSELL, 5.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Marco ROJAS, 8.Besart BERISHA, 10.James TROISI, 11.Mitch AUSTIN, 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 15.Alan BARO, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 17.James DONACHIE, 19.George HOWARD, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (GK), 21.Carl VALERI (c), 22.Stefan NIGRO, 23.Jai INGHAM, 40.Matt ACTON (GK) **two to be omitted**
Ins: 19.George HOWARD (promoted), 22.Stefan NIGRO (promoted)
After their record-breaking season, it would be only fitting for Sydney FC to complete the job and lift the championship trophy on Sunday evening.
They’ve left the others in their wake, breaking all manner of Hyundai A-League records and setting new standards on and off the field.
Everything points to a 22nd win in 29 games for Graham Arnold’s side, and their comfortable victory over Perth Glory in last weekend’s semi-final only strengthened their credentials in the eyes of many.
In fact, it’s hard to find any neutral observers who think Victory might win, but the fact remains they definitely have the players to do so.
Nine of their likely match-day squad have previous grand final experience, including Besart Berisha who will play in his fourth, having never lost one.
The Kosovo international simply doesn’t know the meaning of the word “lose” and will do everything in his power to combine with his dangerous attacking comrades to lower Sydney’s colours.
The Sky Blues though have been simply imperious, and their 3-0 semi-final win over Glory on Saturday was the eleventh time they’ve scored three or more goals in a game this season; their front-third capability is quite frankly frightening.
With so much attacking firepower at the disposal of both coaches, it might well be the tighter defence that makes the difference.
Sydney FC have been unmatchable in that regard, keeping an astonishing 17 clean sheets and conceding just 12 goals in 42 hours of football.
Goalkeeper Danny Vukovic is the best in the land and he and three of his back four – Alex Wilkinson, Rhyan Grant and Michael Zullo – were recognised in the PFA Team of the Season announced this week.
Whichever way you look at it, the two best sides have reached the Big Show.
A classic climax awaits.
· Sydney FC have won their last three games against Victory; at no point in the 41-game history between these sides has either team won four consecutive games.
· Melbourne Victory are undefeated against Sydney FC in five finals clashes, including a 3-0 win when these teams met in the 2015 grand final; that was only time either side has kept a post-season clean sheet against the other.
· Sydney FC will be looking to make it the fourth consecutive A-League season where the Premiers have gone on to win the Grand Final, a scenario which has played out in seven of the 11 A-League seasons.
· Melbourne Victory have scored 13 goals in the final 15 minutes of games this season, more than any other team.
· Both Sydney FC’s Milos Ninkovic and Victory’s Marco Rojas have provided 11 assists this season, three more than any other player.
ROUTE TO GOAL
Goals win games and these two teams have certainly exhibited their firepower in 2016/17, winning 37 of their combined 56 matches.
Both have topped 50 goals this season and have some of the most exciting strikers in Hyundai A-League history among their ranks.
Melbourne Victory’s main man is, of course, Besart Berisha.
He’s netted 20 goals this season and needs just two more to equal Victory legend Archie Thompson’s finals record of ten, half of which came in the 2006/07 grand final demolition of Adelaide United.
Berisha blends a burning desire to win with an unquenchable thirst for goals, making him the most potent striker in the 12-year history of the Hyundai A-League.
Alongside Berisha, the “Kiwi Messi” has had a spectacular return to the competition, with Marco Rojas mixing a dozen goals with 11 assists; he’s absolutely capable of the spectacular match-turning moment which might prove decisive in such a big game.
The support cast includes Fahid Ben Khalfallah in his last game for the Big V and Caltex Socceroo James Troisi.
As front-fours go, it’s about as exciting as it gets.
Sydney FC’s 2016/17 version of the “Killer B’s” has comprised brilliant Brazilian Bobo and effervescent skipper Alex Brosque, who have combined for 26 goals this season.
Bobo has brought the talent and experience gained from over a dozen years of top-flight football in his homeland and Turkey, while Brosque has enjoyed a stellar goalscoring season, reaching double figures for the first time.
While not quite as prolific, Slovakian Filip Holosko has been every bit as important, chipping in with crucial strikes and working tirelessly in the front third.
Providing the ammunition has been the competition’s best player, the sublime Serbian Milos Ninkovic, whose ability to unlock defences and create chances for his team-mates has been unrivalled in the past 30 weeks.
So, who do you fancy?
Berisha, Rojas, Ben Khalfallah and Troisi?
Or Bobo, Brosque, Holosko and Ninkovic?
Regardless of whose side you fall on, the array of attacking talent on display is mouth-watering.
WHO'S BEEN IN THE NEWS THIS WEEK?
Serbian superstar Milos Ninkovic was a popular winner of the Johnny Warren Medal on Monday night.
FORM LINES (last five games)
Sydney FC: WWDWW
Melbourne Victory: LLDWW
Sydney FC 2 Melbourne Victory 1