Preview: Brisbane Roar v Melbourne Victory

The developing animosity between the Roar and Victory was amplified to entertaining effect the last time they locked horns.

Date: Saturday, 31 December 2011 Kick-off: 8.30pm AEDT, 7.30pm local Venue: Suncorp Stadium

Head-to-head Played 19: Wins: Brisbane 5, Victory 10, Draws: 4

Previous encounter Victory 2, Brisbane 2, 5 November 2011

History: The developing animosity between the Roar and Victory was amplified to entertaining effect the last time they locked horns. It was truly a match that had it all - except for a winner.

Ante Covic was sent off in the first minute and Brisbane's Henrique converted the subsequent penalty, but then two goals from the brilliant Archie Thompson gave Melbourne a shock lead.

The equaliser came soon, through a nifty free-kick from Thomas Broich - and then the match turned on its head courtesy of a highly-contentious red card to Matthew Foschini. With the scores at 2-2 and Melbourne down to nine men, the odds were stacked against them - but in the second half, they pulled out a brave, disciplined and courageous performance to deny Brisbane.


Past five matches: Brisbane: LLLLL Victory: WLDWL

Summary of form: Yes, that is five consecutive 'L's. How on earth did that happen to Brisbane Roar? The last month has proven the side once known as 'Roarcelona' are far from invincible. A frugal defence once served as the backbone of their 36-game unbeaten streak.

Now the men in orange have conceded nine goals in their last five starts - prior to their first loss, they'd let in only six in total. But the true concerns are up front, and questions are being asked why their formerly clinical strikeforce has turned lumbersome and predictable.

Victory aren't reaching any great heights either. They've won just once in their last four games, and their pride took a massive hit on their last outing - a derby day loss to cross-town rivals Heart, in front of a sold out AAMI Park. Melbourne have only played to their potential in patches, despite myriad riches in the final third.

Match Committee: As if coming off a five-match losing streak wasn't hard enough to deal with, Roar coach Ange Postecoglou says it remains unlikely that Thomas Broich and Henrique, two of the club's most important players and most incisive attackers, will be fit for New Year's Eve. Captain Matt Smith is expected to take his place despite coming off in the second half against Gold Coast, complaining of tightness in his injured groin.

Danger men:

Issey Nakajima-Farran - With livewire winger Henrique and elegant playmaker Thomas Broich out through injury in each of the past five matches, Brisbane have looked to the Canadian international to become their attacking imputes. Heavy lies the crown.

Early in the season the signs were good, but too often Nakajima-Farran fades in and out of form - even during matches - and Brisbane need variety in attack for their gameplan to swing into full effect. Roar fans should persist with him though, because it often takes longer than expected for overseas players to become accustomed to the A-League.

Carlos Hernandez - The arrival of Harry Kewell and Marco Rojas may have allowed the former Johnny Warren medallist to sneak under the radar this season.

Indeed, with Archie Thompson in cracking form and Kewell's reputation demanding defenders pay them both close attention, it's easy to forget that Hernandez can completely change a game with one flick of the ankle. With three goals this season, including one last week, he's also a goal-scoring midfielder, which means the Roar cannot afford to give him any space at all.

At the end of the day…

What a match this shapes up to be. One is the self-proclaimed biggest club in Australia, the other aspires to reach such levels of off-field success.

Victory are misfiring despite an array of attacking weaponry the envy of many clubs, while the once-great Brisbane have lost five on the trot. There is plenty of feeling, too, given the events that transpired in November. Both sides will be desperate to fire, because they both know they can.

But who will? The statistics say it should be Melbourne. Mehmet Durakovic's men have not been held scoreless since November 12. Brisbane haven't kept a clean sheet since 26 November, their last win.

Victory's attacking trident, Hernandez, Kewell and Thompson, are firing - even when they've lost, they've been creative. Meanwhile, the Roar are letting goals in and have scored just two goals themselves in their past five starts. With Broich and Henrique out again, it's unlikely they'll improve on that front.