Hyundai A-League preview: Victory v Sydney FC

Are Melbourne Victory back? The reigning Hyundai A-League champions were brilliant in Round 15 but they are set for another tough examination in the Big Blue against Sydney FC.

MATCH DETAILS 

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC

Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

Kick-Off: 7:30 PM (Local) (7:30 PM (AEDT))

Referee: Strebre Delovski

Assistant Referee 1: Matthew Cream

Assistant Referee 2: Luke Brennan

Fourth Official: Jonathan Barreiro

TV Broadcast: Live coverage on FOX SPORTS 505 from 7.00pm (AEDT) and Sky Sport 1 (New Zealand)

Radio Broadcast: Online & via the ABC Radio Mobile App – A-league Live. SEN Radio (Melbourne)

Join the conversation on Twitter using the hash-tag #MVC vSYD

To purchase tickets visit www.aleague.com.au/tickets

Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 4.Nick ANSELL, 5.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 6.Leigh BROXHAM (c), 7.Gui FINKLER, 8.Besart BERISHA, 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 13.Oliver BOZANIC, 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 17.Matthieu DELPIERRE, 18.Dylan MURNANE, 19.George HOWARD, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (gk), 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 23.Jai INGHAM, 32.Stefan NIGRO

**two to be omitted**

Ins: 5.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI (returns from suspension), 19.George HOWARD (promoted)

Daniel Georgievski

Outs: Nil

Unavailable: 21.Carl VALERI (ill – indefinite)

Sydney FC squad: 1.Vedran JANJETOVIC (gk), 2.Seb RYALL, 3.Alex GERSBACH, 5.Matt JURMAN, 7.Andrew HOOLE, 8.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 10.Milos NINKOVIC, 11.Christopher NAUMOFF, 13.Brandon O’NEILL, 18.Matt SIMON, 19.Jacques FATY, 20.Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 21.Filip HOLOSKO, 22.Ali ABBAS, 23.Rhyan GRANT, 24.George BLACKWOOD, 27.Mickael TAVARES

**two to be omitted**

Ins: 3.Alex GERSBACH, 7.Andrew HOOLE, 13.Brandon O’NEILL (all return from Olyroos duty)

Andrew Hoole fights for the ball with Phoenix midfielder Albert Riera.

Outs: 25.Aaron CALVER (return to NYL squad)

Unavailable: 14.Alex BROSQUE (hamstring – 3 weeks)

#MVCvSYD

BLUFFER'S GUIDE

It was supposed to get worse for Victory last round.

After just one win in seven games, Kevin Muscat's side came face-to-face with A-League leaders Brisbane Roar, who hadn't lost in five matches yet the title-holders were irresistible as they triumphed 4-0.

Victory appear to have turned a corner following their first half against Central Coast Mariners in Geelong where they conceded three goals before fighting back to draw 3-3.

Victory players celebrate Kosta Barbarouses' goal in the 68th minute.

Kosta Barbarouses was critical to that comeback and then scored twice against the Roar, while Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Besart Berisha also struck last week.

A win at Etihad Stadium in the Big Blue on Tuesday would take Victory to within a point of Brisbane, that is if the Roar fail to beat Adelaide United on Friday to kick of Round 16.

The last Big Blue was a stunning match, with Muscat's men coming from behind twice to triumph 4-2 over Sydney FC.

It was a disappointing loss for the Sky Blues, who had also gone down to Victory in last season's grand final.

Sydney haven't defeated Victory in eight matches, although they've only lost three times in that period.

Since that loss in November, however, Sydney have only failed to take points in one of their last nine fixtures, and last week's 2-1 derby triumph over Western Sydney Wanderers took Graham Arnold's side to within a point of top spot.

Sydney FC players celebrate Shane Smeltz's late winner in the Sydney Derby.

Both teams have recalled crucial players with Victory full-back Daniel Georgievski returning from suspension, while Arnold has named Olyroos Alex Gersbach, Andrew Hoole and Brandon O'Neill in his squad.

OPTA STATS

With victory in their last two matches against Sydney in the A-League, Victory will be looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Big Blues

The last three regular season games between these two sides have seen 18 goals scored

After a streak of losing four consecutive A-League games, Victory are unbeaten in four

ROUTE TO GOAL

If the past year is anything to go by, you can bank on goals on Tuesday.

This season's 4-2 win for Victory followed on from their 3-0 grand final triumph and two 3-3 draws last term.

There's only been one scoreless Big Blue since 2011, with eight of those 15 games since ending with at least four goals.

Arnold will be wary of the home side's impressive front four, who appeared to click into gear against the Roar.

Ben Khalfallah and Barbarouses were inspired in Victory's early blitz last week, while Berisha sits just one goal behind A-League Golden Boot leader Bruno Fornaroli (12 goals) so far this season.

Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Besart Berisha celebrate a goal in the rout of Brisbane Roar.

Sydney will also be concerned by Archie Thompson's improving fitness as the veteran striker loves playing against the Sky Blues.

Thompson has scored 14 of his 90 A-League goals against Sydney - his best record against any A-League rival.

Shane Smeltz's late winner at Wanderland was only the second of the campaign for the Kiwi but you'd expect the 34-year-old to improve over the rest of 2015-16.

Smeltz's previous worst season in terms of goals was 2013-14 when injuries saw him score just four in 13 matches.

Shane Smeltz tries to wriggle free from Manny Muscat.

For all the talk of Sydney's stuttering attack, they have scored at least two goals in each of their past four games.

WHO'S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?

Stefan Nigro. The Victory youngster was brilliant out of position at right-back against the Roar, keeping Thomas Broich quiet in an impressive debut. He even made the Team of the Week

FORM LINES

Melbourne Victory: LDWDW

Sydney FC: DWDWW

PREDICTION

Melbourne Victory 2-2 Sydney FC