Melbourne Derbies are big. We know that. But in the context of this season's top two and the Hyundai A-League Premiership, few will be as significant as this Saturday night's blockbuster at AAMI Park.
The winner will remain right in the hunt behind the top two while a loss and the season’s first piece of silverware is likely to be out of reach.
Here are the three key match-ups likely to decide the outcome on what will be a memorable night.
• City playmaker Aaron Mooy v Victory midfielder Leigh Broxham
• City skipper Patrick Kisnorbo v Victory striker Besart Berisha
• City striker Bruno Fornaroli v Victory defender Nick Ansell
City playmaker Aaron Mooy v Victory midfielder Leigh Broxham
It’s been some season for Mooy for both club and country and you sense if City is to get the points in this one, he’ll have a major say.
The Socceroo star is most dangerous when he finds those pockets of space between midfield and attack, able to turn and look forward for the likes of Fornaroli and Novillo.
That trio has formed a lethal combination this season, with Mooy at the heart of it. If he’s in the mood at AAMI Park, Victory’s defence is in for a difficult night.
It’s not just the seven goals the classy 25-year-old has scored which makes him a threat, but Mooy also has a league-high 14 assists, made 68 key passes and completed 29 successful dribbles.
The man likely to be charged with stopping him on Saturday night is Victory’s Mr Fix-It Broxham.
The under-rated 28-year-old has been asked to play anywhere from right-back to centre-back to midfield this season and always delivers for coach Kevin Muscat.
Broxham has the stamina to stay with Mooy all evening, while his experience of knowing where to be at all times will be vital.
You don’t get to 200 games in the Hyundai A-League without having something about you.
And “DJ Brox” certainly has something special and he’ll need all of that and more to stop the competition’s premier midfielder from being on-song for City.
City skipper Patrick Kisnorbo v Victory striker Besart Berisha
You can’t talk about the Melbourne Derby without mentioning Berisha.
He just loves playing against City. In the six derbies he’s played the Albanian marksman has scored seven times, including a late winner in the very first clash this season.
While Berisha’s goals are vitally important to Victory’s hopes, there won’t be a minute where he isn’t harassing or hustling the City back-four.
There’s nothing he likes more than getting under the skin of his direct opponent and putting them off their game.
If anyone can deal with that it should be Kisnorbo.
The pair have had some torrid tussles over the last 18 months and while Berisha has scored plenty of goals, the ex-Socceroo defender hasn’t always been out-pointed in the head-to-head battle.
Kisnorbo’s cause could be helped if Alex Wilkinson gets the nod to make his City debut.
The skipper has often had a lot to concern himself with this season, marshaling an inexperienced central defensive line-up around him in City’s back-three
Wilko’s presence should allow him to focus solely on his role of stopping Berisha. Something always happens when these two combustible characters meet and I’m expecting more of the same.
City striker Bruno Fornaroli v Victory defender Nick Ansell
Has there ever been a better debut season by an import in the Hyundai A-League than Fornaroli's?
Unknown by most fans when signed by John van ‘t Schip, the Uruguayan has been a smash hit.
Not the most powerfully-built striker, Fornaroli relies on his exceptional ball control, excellent close dribbling and - of course – his brilliant finishing ability.
He’s scored 15 goals from just 18 appearances to lead the golden boot race by one from Berisha (14)
If Victory’s defenders get to close to the “Prickly Pear” he can roll past them in the blink of an eye, while if they back off and give him space he has the time to turn and get a shot at goal.
It’s why this looms as a huge challenge for Victory youngster Ansell.
After an injury-plagued start to the season, Ansell is now back in Victory’s starting side and a key cog if they are to defend their title.
The 22-year-old has all the attributes of a good central defender, strong, quick, a good passer and excellent in the air.
Having made just five appearances for the season though, fitness and concentration could be his biggest problem.
If he switches off for just a second, Fornaroli will make him pay.