Australia Day, the Big Blue, a top-of-the-table clash - it all adds up to a Hyundai A-League blockbuster at Etihad Stadium as Melbourne Victory look to keep the premiership race alive against Sydney FC.
Thursday, 26 January 2017
Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC
Etihad Stadium, Melbourne
Kick-Off: 7:50PM (Local) (7:50PM (AEDT))
Referee: Jarred Gillett
Assistant Referee 1: David Walsh
Assistant Referee 2: Ashley Beecham
Fourth Official: Shaun Evans
TV Broadcast: Live coverage on Fox Sports 505 from 7.00pm (AEDT) and Sky Sport Pop-Up (New Zealand)
Radio Broadcast: ABC Grandstand Online & via the ABC Radio Mobile App – A-league Live, 1116 SEN (Melbourne)
Join the conversation on Twitter using the hash-tag #BigBlue
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, 9.Max BEISTER, 10.James TROISI, 11.Mitch AUSTIN, 13.Oliver BOZANIC, 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 15.Alan BARO, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 17.James DONACHIE, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (gk), 21.Carl VALERI (c), 23.Jai INGHAM, 40.Matt ACTON (gk)
**two to be omitted**
Ins: 2.Jason GERIA (returns from suspension), 4.Nick ANSELL (promoted), 13.Oliver BOZANIC (promoted), 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH (returns from suspension)
Outs: 19.George HOWARD (omitted), 22.Stefan NIGRO (omitted)
Sydney FC squad: 1.Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 4.Alex WILKINSON, 5.Jordy BUIJS, 6.Josh BRILLANTE, 7.Michael ZULLO, 8.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 9.BOBÔ, 10.Milos NINKOVIC, 11.Bernie IBINI, 12.Aaron CALVER, 13.Brandon O’NEILL, 14.Alex BROSQUE (c), 17.David CARNEY, 18.Matt SIMON, 19.George BLACKWOOD, 20.Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 21.Filip HOLOSKO, 25.Patrick FLOTTMANN
**two to be omitted**
Ins: 5.Jordy BUIJS (promoted), 19.George BLACKWOOD (promoted), 25.Patrick FLOTTMANN (promoted)
Outs: 23.Rhyan GRANT (suspended – 1 match)
Unavailable: 22.Sebastian RYALL (hamstring – indefinite)
Thursday night's match in Melbourne could be season-defining in the Hyundai A-League with unbeaten Sydney looking to improve on their eight-point lead over second-placed Victory.
If the Sky Blues win, it's very hard to see Victory - or anyone else - catching Graham Arnold's side with 10 rounds remaining.
But if Sydney lose, Victory will reduce the buffer to five points and they will still have another clash against the Sky Blues to come on March 3.
Sydney won the previous meeting this season in November when they came from behind to triumph 2-1 thanks to a controversial late goal from David Carney, but that was the Harbour City club's first win over Victory in 11 A-League matches.
After consecutive away losses to Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory, Victory will be hoping home comforts can help them return to winning ways, as they haven't lost in Victoria since their 2-0 defeat to Melbourne City in the FFA Cup semi-finals in October.
Jason Geria and Fahid Ben Khalfallah return to Victory's squad after missing the 2-1 loss to Glory through suspension, while coach Kevin Muscat has also recalled Oliver Bozanic and Nick Ansell.
Muscat has indicated that regular starters Geria, Ben Khalfallah, Bozanic and Marco Rojas should take part from the opening minute at Melbourne's Docklands venue.
For Sydney, new defender Jordy Buijs is in line to make his A-League debut after his transfer clearance came through this week, while youngsters George Blackwood and Patrick Flottmann have been promoted.
Arnold's biggest selection conundrum is how to fill the hole left by suspended right-back Rhyan Grant.
Midfielder Josh Brillante appears the favourite to cover for Grant but Buijs and young centre-back Aaron Calver could also play there.
ROUTE TO GOAL
In the past 17 Big Blues there has only been one scoreless draw with an average of 3.5 goals per game.
It's an exciting statistic when you also factor in that Sydney and Victory are the A-League's joint leading scorers in 2016/17 with 36 goals each.
The big difference between the two teams is down back where the Sky Blues have conceded just seven goals - a third of Victory's total.
How Arnold deals with the absence of Grant will be vital as Muscat will undoubtedly target the replacement with the likes of Ben Khalfallah, Rojas and James Troisi, while moving Brillante into defence could hurt Sydney's structure through the middle of the pitch.
But Victory will have to be wary of Sydney's pressing as Alex Brosque (9 goals), Milos Ninkovic (7), Bobo (7) and Filip Holosko (5) have thrived on the counterattack this season.
WHO'S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?
Leigh Broxham. The Melbourne Victory veteran is set to surpass ex-striker Archie Thompson as the club's A-League games record holder with his 225th appearance.
Melbourne Victory: WWWLL
Sydney FC: WWWDW
Melbourne Victory 2-1 Sydney FC