Preview: Adelaide United v Melbourne Victory
No matter how either side approaches this week, there is no escaping that over the past 12 months, Melbourne has had the wood over its most fierce rival.
Date: Friday September 18 Kick-off: 8:00pm AEST (7:30pm ACST) Venue: Hindmarsh Stadium, Adelaide TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (HD) and Sky Sports 1 (HD). To purchase tickets visit www.venuetix.com.au
Head-to-head Played 18: Wins: Melbourne 10, Adelaide 5. Draws: 3
Previous meeting Melbourne Victory 1, Adelaide United 0, 2008/09 Hyundai A-League Grand Final, February 2009
Last five matches: Melbourne Victory: Round 2: Melbourne Victory 3, Brisbane Roar 3, Etihad Stadium Round 3: North Queensland Fury 1, Melbourne Victory 0, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 4: Perth Glory 2, Melbourne Victory 1, ME Bank Stadium Round 5: Melbourne Victory 1, Newcastle Jets 1, Etihad Stadium Round 6: Melbourne Victory 1, Wellington Phoenix 1, Etihad Stadium
Adelaide United: Round 2: Sydney FC 1, Adelaide United 0, SFS Round 3: Adelaide United 0, Gold Coast United 2, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 4: Adelaide United 3, North Queensland Fury 3, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 5: Wellington Phoenix 1, Adelaide United 1, Westpac Stadium Round 6: Adelaide United 1, Central Coast Mariners 0, Hindmarsh Stadium
Analysis: It is doubtful that there are many teams in the world who would have suffered six defeats in the one league season by another team. But that was the fate that befell Adelaide last year as it crashed to Melbourne on half a dozen occasions, including a 1-0 defeat in the Grand Final.
No matter how either side approaches this week, there is no escaping that over the past 12 months, Melbourne has had the wood over its most fierce rival. The personnel may have changed, and Adelaide may have picked up two extra points than Melbourne over the first six rounds, but the Reds will have plenty to prove in this match.
The margin last week may have been only a goal, but the Reds looked comfortable in getting past the Mariners. Cassio delivered the goal from a free kick on the half hour and after that point Adelaide controlled the tempo of the game. It was a typically professional performance from Aurelio Vidmar's team, one which suggested that the Reds will be hard to knock over against at Hindmarsh Stadium again this season.
Travis Dodd, on his return from a calf injury, put in solid shift in his return and he again looms as a key in this game. Defender Robbie Cornthwaite is back after serving a two-match suspension, while former Victory midfielder Kristian Sarkies will be looking to get his season underway after missing the first six rounds with a calf injury. Matthew Leckie, who impressed in the National Youth League last week, has also been added to the squad.
Paul Reid will miss this match and possibly two more with a quad injury, while Michael Marron's knee problems should sideline him for the best part of a month. Daniel Mullen is off with the Young Socceroos ahead of the Under-20 World Cup, while Fabien Barbiero's return from injury is slated for next week.
Melbourne has had its worst start ever to a Hyundai A-League season after picking up just three points in its four home matches in the first six rounds. Its only win so far has come against North Queensland, while it has only managed draws against Newcastle and Wellington at Etihad Stadium over the past fortnight.
Melbourne coach Ernie Merrick admitted last week that his team is missing Kevin Muscat, who has been out for five matches with a hamstring tear and he rates his captain a 60-40 chance to take on Adelaide. Melbourne has managed a clean sheet on just one occasion so far this season and the addition of Muscat to an unsettled defence would be a massive boost.
The departure of Danny Allsopp and the season-long injury to Billy Celeski have caused issues in attack and in midfield. Grant Brebner did a good job in Celeski's place last week, but Melbourne struggled without Allsopp. Ney Fabiano was busy, but made only a few inroads, while Archie Thompson struggled to get into the play.
Carlos Hernandez is a crucial player for Melbourne as he gets the likes of Thompson and Fabiano into the game, while proving an attacking menace himself. His brilliant free kick gave Melbourne an early lead against Wellington, but having returned from international duty just 24 hours before the game, he understandably struggled to run out the 90 minutes. He tore Adelaide apart in the first leg of the semi-finals last season, and the Reds defenders will be very mindful of his presence.
This is a massive match for both sides, with Melbourne looking to get its season moving and Adelaide looking to get the monkey of its back having won just one of its past 13 matches against the visitors in a stretch that goes back almost three years.
Adelaide United Squad: 1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk), 2.Robert CORNTHWAITE, 3.ALEMAO, 4.Iain FYFE, 6.CASSIO, 7.Lucas PANTELIS, 8. Kristian SARKIES, 9.CRISTIANO, 10.Adam HUGHES, 11.Lloyd OWUSU, 13.Travis DODD (c), 14.Scott JAMIESON, 16.Inseob SHIN, 19. Mathew LECKIE, 20.Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk), 21.Mark RUDAN *one to be omitted* In: Robert CORNTHWAITE (returns from suspension), Kristian SARKIES (returns from injury), Mathew LECKIE (promoted from NYL) Out: Paul REID (thigh/quad - 3 weeks), Michael MARRONE (knee - 4 weeks) Unavailable: Daniel MULLEN (international duty), Fabian BARBIERO (calf - 1 week)
Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (c), 3.Mate DUGANDZIC, 5.Surat SUKHA, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Matthew FOSCHINI, 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 21.Robbie KRUSE, 22.Nick WARD, 23.Adrian LEIJER *two to be omitted*
In: Kevin MUSCAT (return from injury), Matthew FOSCHINI (promoted)