Can Melbourne City prove they mean business by extending Victory's losing streak to four matches? Saturday night's Melbourne Derby shapes as a defining match of the 2015-16 season.
Saturday, 19 December 2015
Melbourne City FC v Melbourne Victory
AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-Off: 7:30 PM (Local) (7:30 PM (AEDT))
Referee: Ben Williams
Assistant Referee 1: Matthew Cream
Assistant Referee 2: Luke Brennan
Fourth Official: Shaun Evans
TV Broadcast: Live coverage on FOX SPORTS 505 from 7.00pm (AEDT) and Sky Sport 1 (New Zealand)
Radio Broadcast: 774 ABC Melbourne, ABC Local Radio Vic, Grandstand Digital, Online & via the ABC Radio Mobile App – A-league Live. SEN Radio (Melbourne). Crocmedia A-League Live ( www.facebook.com/A-leagueLIVERadio ).
Join the conversation on Twitter using the hash-tag #MelbDerby
To purchase tickets visit www.aleague.com.au/tickets
Melbourne City FC squad: 1.Thomas SORENSEN (gk), 3.Aaron HUGHES, 5.Ivan FRANJIC, 6.Erik PAARTALU, 8.Aaron MOOY, 9.Harry NOVILLO, 10.Robi KOREN, 15.David WILLIAMS, 18.Paulo RETRE, 19.Ben GARUCCIO, 20.Tando VELAPHI (gk), 21.Stefan MAUK, 22.Jack CLISBY, 23.Bruno FORNAROLI, 24.Patrick KISNORBO (c), 25.Jacob MELLING, 30.Hernan ESPINDOLA, 36.Matt MILLAR
**two to be omitted**
Ins: 3.Aaron HUGHES (returns from injury), 30.Hernan ESPINDOLA (promoted), 36.Matt MILLAR (promoted)
Outs: 4.Connor CHAPMAN (knee – 2-3 months)
Unavailable: 7.Corey GAMEIRO (knee – season), 26.Marc MARINO (knee – 4-5 weeks)
Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 2.Jason GERIA, 5.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 6.Leigh BROXHAM (c), 7.Gui FINKLER, 8.Besart BERISHA, 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.Connor PAIN, 13.Oliver BOZANIC, 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 15.Giancarlo GALLIFUOCO, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 17.Matthieu DELPIERRE, 18.Dylan MURNANE, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (gk), 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 24.Thomas DENG
**two to be omitted**
Ins: 10.Archie THOMPSON (returns from injury), 17.Matthieu DELPIERRE (promoted), 24.Thomas DENG (promoted)
Outs: 19.George HOWARD (omitted)
Unavailable: 4.Nick ANSELL (foot – 4 weeks), 21.Carl VALERI (ill – indefinite)
When Melbourne Victory have lost three straight games and confidence is low amongst the Big V's supporters, how can you spark the club?
Recall Archie Thompson of course!
There is no doubt the reigning A-League champions are stuttering after defeats on the road at Wellington Phoenix, Western Sydney Wanderers and Perth Glory.
But Victory pushed the Wanderers all the way last week and had chances to win against both Wellington and Perth - the title-holders are far from finished.
Thompson will certainly bring back some pep to Victory's performance, while the atmosphere of a Melbourne Derby may spark the likes of Besart Berisha and Fahid Ben Khalfallah to their best form.
Victory coach Kevin Muscat will not have Carl Valeri, however, with the captain out indefinitely due to brain inflammation, which is affecting his balance.
The contrast in form for the two Melbourne clubs could hardly be more different heading into Saturday night's derby.
Melbourne City have won three straight, scoring 14 goals in the process.
But as defensive midfielder Erik Paartalu conceded on Thursday, few will take City "seriously" until they start regularly overcoming title contenders like Victory.
In Round 2, City came from behind in the second half to level at 2-2 with 19 minutes remaining but Berisha struck a winner in the 90th minute.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
Victory have won their past three meetings with City - the longest streak in the history of the Melbourne Derby.
City have won the past two Melbourne derbies when playing as the home team and kept clean sheets in both games too.
Berisha has scored 10 goals in 12 matches against City.
Victory have not scored in over 330 minutes of A-League action.
ROUTE TO GOAL
No team has scored more this season than City, with John van 't Schip's men scoring at 2.7 goals per game.
Uruguayan striker Bruno Fornaroli (9 goals) leads the A-League golden boot standings, while no player has been involved in more goals this season than City's marquee midfielder Aaron Mooy (6 goals, 7 assists).
With Victory having failed to keep a clean sheet since they lifted the FFA Cup in November, it is hard to imagine City not breaching Muscat's defence.
But City have their own defensive issues.
Last week's clean sheet in a 4-0 win over Newcastle Jets was City's first of the campaign, while Connor Chapman - the only constant in Van 't Schip's back four this season - will miss up to three months with a knee injury.
Van 't Schip has brought in Aaron Hughes and Matt Millar as defensive reinforcements.
Victory looked decidedly scratchy when going forward against Perth - Ben Khalfallah has yet to reach the heights of 2014-15, Berisha has been isolated up front and the Big V appeared rushed in possession in Western Australia.
But with Thompson likely to provide fresh legs off the bench and a vocal crowd expected at AAMI Park, don't bet against Australia's treble-winners responding on the big stage.
WHO'S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?
Kevin Muscat. Victory's former captain experienced a first this week, suffering a third consecutive loss as coach, but he has refused to push the panic button.
Melbourne City: LDWWW
Melbourne Victory: WWLLL
Melbourne City 1-1 Melbourne Victory