Preview: Brisbane Roar v Melbourne Victory

Melbourne Victory hold a commanding lead in the head-to-head stakes between these two clubs, but they have not beaten Brisbane Roar this season.

Date: Saturday 18 February 2012 Kick-off: 7.45pm AEDT, 6.45pm local Venue: Suncorp Stadium

Head-to-head Played: 20 Wins: Brisbane 6, Victory 10, Draws: 4

Previous encounter Brisbane 3, Victory 1, 31 December 2011

History: Melbourne Victory hold a commanding lead in the head-to-head stakes between these two clubs, but they have not beaten Brisbane Roar this season in two attempts.

The first was an epic 2-2 draw - if you recall, that was when Victory saw goalkeeper Ante Covic sent off barely seconds into the match, before Matthew Foschini received another more controversial red card, but despite those impediments the navy blues put in a fantastic defensive performance to earn a point.

On New Year's Eve, however, they were outclassed on the Roar's home turf. Mitch Nichols, Rocky Visconte and Ivan Franjic all found the net, canceling out Harry Kewell's early opener and bringing the reigning champions closer to restoring their trademark swagger.


Past five matches: Brisbane: WDLWW Victory: LDDDW

Summary of form: Are Brisbane back? Their form and results suggest as much, though perhaps not back to their record-breaking days of old. Their past two results were 2-0 wins over the two sides ahead of them on the table, Central Coast and Wellington.

Both were away from home, and on both occasions Albanian striker Besart Berisha got his name on the scoresheet. Remember when he was doing that with regularity earlier in the season? That was because the Roar's midfield were firing, with playmaker Thomas Broich dishing out perfect through balls at will. With good service, Berisha scores. When Berisha scores, it's usually because of good service.

Meanwhile, Melbourne Victory aren't back - that would imply they were 'here' in the first place. But with their first win under caretaker coach Jim Magilton, the signs are somewhat brighter than they were a few weeks ago.

They, too, knocked off the Mariners, but their triumph was at home. Big guns Carlos Hernandez and Kewell scored to give Victory a 2-1 win over a lacklustre Coast side, but there is plenty more work to do - starting Saturday night - if they are to restore their finals hopes.

Match Committee:

The only confirmed absentees for Brisbane are Rocky Visconte, Matt Jurman and Mitch Nichols, who - along with Victory trio Diogo Ferreira, Matthew Foschini and Isaka Cernak - are still overseas with the Olyroos.

Aside from that the Roar have a clean bill of health, however, question marks remain over the fitness of Victory striker Archie Thompson after he appeared to injure his hamstring at training on Tuesday, but he'll be given as much time as he needs to prove his fitness. Grant Brebner and Matthew Kemp are also carrying injuries.

Danger men:

Besart Berisha - Fresh off penning a new two-year deal with the Roar, penalty box predator Berisha will be hungry to add more goals to his tally this season.

With 13 already, he's on the cusp of breaking Sergio van Dijk's record for the most goals scored by a Brisbane player in one season. But given he's four ahead of his nearest rivals on the goalscoring charts and that the Roar are back to playing with their usual verve, he's almost certain to.

Carlos Hernandez - It seemed as if the Costa Rican magician's time at Victory was coming to a close just a fortnight ago. Magilton left Hernandez out of his squad that took on Gold Coast United in Launceston and then started him on the bench the week after in the Melbourne Derby.

That's not the way to treat a gamebreaking midfielder, is it? But the tough love worked - Hernandez was back to his brilliant best against the Mariners, scoring a cracking goal in the process.

At the end of the day… Can the Roar's charge continue this week? Why not? Look at their injury list - while many other clubs across the league are struggling, the men in orange have barely had an issue since Broich and Henrique returned to fitness.

Even in the absence of their Olyroos, Ange Postecoglou has still been able to put out quality sides and in their past two outings, they've delivered quality results. Are they back? Kind of. It depends how they deal with a Melbourne Victory side who would have taken great confidence out of beating the ladder-leading Central Coast Mariners.

For a club that's had the spotlight shining right in their eyes all season, things could be a lot worse. But then again, at the back, they've got two players - Mark Milligan and Ubay Luzardo - who are new to the team and their system. Those two will have to deal with the threats posed by a settled, fit and hungry Brisbane strikeforce, led by Broich, Berisha, Henrique, Fitzgerald... It's a tough ask. We're backing Brisbane here.


Brisbane Roar Squad: 1. Michael Theoklitos (GK), 2. Matt Smith (C), 3. Shane Stefanutto, 5. Ivan Franjic, 6. Erik Paaratlu, 7. Besart Berisha, 8. Massimo Murdocca, 10. Henrique, 11. Issey Nakajima-Farran, 12. Matt Mundy, 16. Mohamed Adnan, 17. Mitch Nichols, 19. Jack Hingert, 20. Andrew Redmayne (GK), 21. James Meyer, 22. Thomas Broich, 24. Nick Fitzgerald *two to be omitted*

In: 11. Issey Nakajima-Farran, 19. Jack Hingert (promoted) Out: Nil Unavailable:14. Rocky Visconte (Qantas Australian U23 duty), 4. Matt Jurman (Qantas Australian U23 duty)

Melbourne Victory squad: 1. Tando Velaphi (gk), 3. Fabio, 4. Petar Franjic, 5.Mark Milligan, 6. Leigh Broxham, 7. Matthew Kemp, 9. Jean Carlos Solorzano, 10. Archie Thompson, 11. Marco Rojas, 14. Billy Celeski, 16.Carlos Hernandez, 17.Jimmy Jeggo, 18. Danny Allsopp, 21. Ante Covic (GK), 22. Harry Kewell, 23. Adrian Leijer (c), 24. Ubay Luzardo *two to be omitted*

In: 7. Matthew Kemp, 14. Billy Celeski (both returning from injury) Out: Nil Unavailable: 8. Grant Brebner (injured), 13. Diogo Ferreira (Qantas Australian U23 duty), 2. Matthew Foschini (Qantas Australian U23 duty), 19. Isaka Cernak (Qantas Australian U23 duty)