Hyundai A-League preview: Victory v City

Both Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City are in scratchy form heading into their fourth derby across all competitions in 2016/17, but three points could kick-start either team's title bid.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Melbourne Victory v Melbourne City FC

Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

Kick-Off:  7:50PM (Local) (7:50PM (AEDT))

Referee:  Chris Beath

Assistant Referee 1:  Nathan MacDonald

Assistant Referee 2:  George Lakrindis

Fourth Official:  Kurt Ams

TV Broadcast:  Live coverage on Fox Sports 505 from 7.45pm (AEDT) and Sky Sport 1 (New Zealand)

Radio Broadcast:  ABC Radio Melbourne, ABC Radio Vic, Grandstand Digital, Online & via the ABC Radio Mobile App – A-league Live, 1116 SEN (Melbourne)

Join the conversation on Twitter using the hash-tag #MelbDerby

To purchase tickets visit  www.aleague.com.au

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, 13.Oliver BOZANIC, 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 15.Alan BARO, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 18. George HOWARD, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (gk), 21.Carl VALERI (c), 22.Stefan NIGRO, 23.Jai INGHAM, 40.Matt ACTON (gk)

**two to be omitted**

Mitch Austin on the ball during a Victory training session.

Ins:  4.Nick ANSELL (promoted), 11.Mitch AUSTIN (promoted), 22.Stefan NIGRO (promoted)

Outs:  17.James DONACHIE (suspended – 1 match)

Unavailable:  Nil

Melbourne  City FC squad:  1.Thomas SORENSEN (gk), 2.Manny MUSCAT, 5.Ivan FRANJIC, 6.Osama MALIK, 8.Neil KILKENNY, 9.Nicolas COLAZO, 10.Anthony CACERES, 11.Bruce KAMAU, 12.Nick FITZGERALD, 14.Daniel ARZANI, 17.Tim CAHILL, 18.Paulo RETRE, 20.Dean BOUZANIS (gk), 21.Ruon TONGYIK, 22.Michael JAKOBSEN, 23.Bruno FORNAROLI (c), 26.Luke BRATTAN, 27.Fernando BRANDAN

**two to be omitted**

Manny Muscat, Paulo Retre

Ins:  2.Manny MUSCAT (promoted), 14.Daniel ARZANI (promoted) 18.Paulo RETRE (promoted)

Outs:  3.Josh ROSE (omitted)

Unavailable:  7.Corey GAMEIRO (ACL – season), 28.Steve KUZMANOVSKI (ACL – season)

BLUFFER'S GUIDE

Three Melbourne derbies down this season - one in the FFA Cup and two in the Hyundai A-League - and the record reads two wins to City and one to Victory.

It seems a long time since City crushed Victory 4-1 at Etihad Stadium in Round 2, but if Michael Valkanis' men can repeat that performance at the same venue on Saturday night, they will give their season an almighty boost.

City have only won two of nine league fixtures since they lifted the Westfield FFA Cup in early November and two defeats in their past three games has seen them drop to fourth in the table.

City playmaker Luke Brattan challenges for the ball with Jets midfielder Steven Ugarkovic.

Another loss this week might end their hopes of winning the championship.

No team has ever won the A-League grand final after finishing outside the top two spots and defeat at the hands of the Big V would leave City nine points adrift of Victory with nine matches remaining.

Coach Valkanis has dropped defender Josh Rose and promoted Manny Muscat, Daniel Arzani and Paulo Retre into an extended squad, but whether City's boss can spark his forward set-up will be critical to the derby result.

City have scored just one goal in each of their past four matches but they will hope they can rediscover their mojo against a Victory side that has lost three games on the trot.

Victory (32 points) could have both third-placed Brisbane Roar (27) and City (26) breathing down their neck by the end of the weekend if they lose their third derby of the campaign.

Melbourne Victory

The Big V will be without defender James Donachie after his red card in last week's 2-1 home loss to leaders Sydney FC.

Nick Ansell is the obvious replacement for Donachie, while Mitch Austin and Stefan Nigro have also been added to Kevin Muscat's extended squad.

OPTA DATA

Hyundai A-League Round 18 stats preview

ROUTE TO GOAL

What has happened to Victory's forward third?

Despite still being the A-League's second-best attacking side this season - Victory have scored just one less goal than leaders Sydney - Muscat's men have only managed two goals in their three straight defeats and one of those was a penalty.

Besart Berisha wins a header against Sydney FC defender Michael Zullo.

The positive is that Besart Berisha, James Troisi, Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Marco Rojas looked brilliant in patches against Perth Glory and Sydney over the past fortnight but they need to be more clinical.

City are in a somewhat similar position and their go-to excuse that opponents are simply "parking the bus" won't cut it anymore.

Valkanis and his coaching staff need to find a way for City to break down defences, with midfielder Luke Brattan claiming this week that they lack flair, cross the ball too often and need to move the ball quicker.

Melbourne City interim coach Michael Valkanis on the sideline during Round 14.

WHO'S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?

Max Beister. After just nine A-League appearances, the winger is heading back to Germany on "compassionate leave" and isn't expected to return. It all started so well for the 26-year-old with a goal on debut but his Victory stint ends in disappointment after only 123 minutes of action.

FORM LINES

Melbourne Victory: WWLLL

Melbourne City: DWLWL

PREDICTION

Melbourne Victory 1-1 Melbourne City