There will be no time for Sydney FC to lick their wounds after Wednesday night's ACL loss in Tokyo when they face Melbourne Victory in what is the most vital Big Blue since last season's Grand Final.
Saturday, 27 February 2016
Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC
AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-Off: 7:30 PM (Local) (7:40 PM (AEDT))
Referee: Kris Griffiths-Jones
Assistant Referee 1: David Walsh
Assistant Referee 2: Wilson Brown
Fourth Official: Lucien Laverdure
TV Broadcast: Live coverage on FOX SPORTS 505 from 7.15pm (AEDT) and Sky Sport 3 (New Zealand)
Radio Broadcast: 774 ABC Melbourne, 702 ABC Sydney, ABC Local Radio Vic, Grandstand Digital, Online & via the ABC Radio Mobile App – A-league Live.
Join the conversation on Twitter using the hash-tag #BigBlue
To purchase tickets visit www.aleague.com.au/tickets
Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 3.Scott GALLOWAY, 4.Nick ANSELL, 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, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 17.Matthieu DELPIERRE, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (gk), 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 23.Jai INGHAM, 24.Thomas DENG
Ins: 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES (returns from suspension), 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS (promoted), 24. Thomas DENG (promoted)
Outs: 2.Jason GERIA (suspended – 1 week)
Unavailable: 21.Carl VALERI (ill – season)
Sydney FC squad: 1.Vedran JANJETOVIC (gk), 2.Seb RYALL, 5.Matt JURMAN, 7. Andrew HOOLE, 8.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 10.Milos NINKOVIC, 13.Brandon O’NEILL, 14.Alex BROSQUE, 17.David CARNEY, 18.Matt SIMON, 19.Jacques FATY, 20.Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 21.Filip HOLOSKO, 22.Ali ABBAS, 23.Rhyan GRANT, 25. Aaron CALVER, 27.Mickael TAVARES **two to be omitted**
Ins: 22. Ali ABBAS, 27. Mickael TAVARES.
The ACL produced vastly different emotions for these two teams this week.
While Victory started their campaign with an impressive and thrilling 2-1 win over Shanghai SIPG at home, Sydney's trip to Japan ended in a 2-0 loss to Urawa Red Diamonds in Saitama.
But Kevin Muscat and Graham Arnold will be urging their respective squads to refocus ahead of Saturday night, with both teams in danger of dropping out of the top six by the end of the round.
If seventh-placed Perth Glory (28 points) beat leaders Western Sydney Wanderers on Friday night, one of Victory or Sydney (both 29) will drop out of the finals' positions.
Not even a draw would save last season's grand finalists.
Victory have the edge over Sydney with three straight wins, including the 2014-15 decider, and no losses since January 2014.
Neither team are in good domestic form - Victory haven't won in four games, while Sydney are winless in six.
Muscat and Arnold have recalled their imports who missed out on ACL selection, while Sydney will also have Matt Simon, Brandon O'Neill and David Carney available after they missed the midweek game against Urawa.
Having won their first two Big Blues this season, Victory will be aiming for a 3-0 regular season whitewash for the first time in the history of this fixture
Sydney have scored in each of the last six A-League away encounters, however, they've only won one of these clashes (D3 L2)
Victory will be striving to avoid a fifth consecutive game without a win for the second time this season
ROUTE TO GOAL
At their best, Victory can produce some of the best attacking football in the A-League, while the Sky Blues lack options up front.
Despite that, the reigning champions have only scored four more goals than Sydney so far this season.
Simply put, Victory are not clinical enough in the forward third.
Muscat's men have had plenty of possession - they sit third in the A-League for passes (9192) this season - but they're only fifth for total shots (196), sixth for shots on target (95) and sixth for shot conversion (15.3 per cent).
With Jai Ingham having scored Victory's opener against Shanghai, Muscat appears to have found a new option in the forward third, although it's expected Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Gui Finkler will reunite with Kosta Barbarouses and Besart Berisha on Saturday.
Sydney have the worst shot conversion (14.1 per cent) in 2015-16.
In their past five games in all competitions, the Sky Blues have only scored more than one goal once - their 2-2 draw with Adelaide United on February 5.
If Arnold doesn't find a new solution up front soon, his team will almost certainly miss out on the finals.
While both teams may be slightly rusty in front of goal, it is unlikely this game will finish scoreless, as that hasn't happened for five straight meetings between Victory and Sydney.
WHO'S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?
Jai Ingham. Handed his first start for Victory against Shanghai, the ex-Hume City winger grabbed the opportunity with both hands, bursting onto Oliver Bozanic's brilliant pass to score the first goal on Wednesday night.
FORM LINES (ALL COMPETITIONS)
Melbourne Victory: LDDLW
Sydney FC: LDLDL
Melbourne Victory 2-0 Sydney FC