Preview: Melbourne v Sydney
This is the one all Australian football fans have been waiting for - the match of the 2009/10 Hyundai A-League season to date.
Date: Saturday December 19 Kick-off: 8pm (AEST) Venue: Etihad Stadium, Melbourne
TV and Radio: Television Live and exclusive on Fox Sports 2 HD from 8pm. Radio 774 ABC Melbourne or online through abc.net.au. Tickets at Ticketmaster by calling 136 100 or online through ticketmaster.com.au
Head-to-headPlayed 13: Melbourne Victory 5, Sydney FC 3, Draws 5
Previous meeting Melbourne Victory 0, Sydney FC 3, round 10, 2009/10 at Etihad Stadium.
Past five rounds
Melbourne Victory: Round 13: Melbourne Victory 0, Central Coast Mariners 4, Etihad Stadium Round 14: Brisbane Roar 0, Melbourne Victory 1, Suncorp Stadium Round 15: Melbourne Victory 4, Gold Coast United 0, Etihad Stadium Round 16: Wellington Phoenix 1, Melbourne Victory 1, Westpac Stadium Round 17: Central Coast Mariners 0, Melbourne Victory 3, Bluetongue Stadium
Sydney FC: Round 13: Gold Coast United 1, Sydney FC 0, Skilled Park Round 14: Perth Glory 2, Sydney FC 0, Members' Equity Stadium Round 15: Sydney FC 1, Newcastle Jets 3, Sydney Football Stadium Round 16: Sydney FC 4, North Queensland Fury 1, Sydney Football Stadium Round 17: Wellington Phoenix 0, Sydney FC 1, FMG Stadium - Palmerston North
Analysis This is the one all Australian football fans have been waiting for - the match of the 2009/10 Hyundai A-League season to date.
Not only does the clash pit the teams that represent Australia's two biggest cities and therefore the competition's biggest rivals but also the teams sitting in first and second place on the table after 18 rounds of the season.
It is a clash between the two clubs that between them have won three of the four Hyundai A-League championships to date but strangely given their dominance the two giants are yet to meet in a grand final.
And while there are nine rounds still to be played this season, this clash could well be a grand final preview with the first Melbourne-Sydney premiership decider certainly on the cards.
Melbourne leads Sydney by three points at the top of the table with Sydney a further four points clear of Gold Coast with the teams already looking destined to finish in the top two to earn the double chance in the finals.
And the clash also pits together the league's highest scoring team Melbourne against the league's second best defensive team this season Sydney.
With 31 goals in 18 games, Melbourne has scored six more goals than any other club while Sydney has conceded just 18 goals for the season - a record only surpassed by Central Coast, which has conceded just 14.
And throw in the 500-game milestone for Victory captain Kevin Muscat, who becomes only the second Australian player after Alex Tobin to ever achieve that feat, and this match has the makings of a classic.
Sydney did thrash Melbourne 3-0 in its only previous meeting this season - and that match was also at Etihad Stadium - but the reigning champions are a much improved side since then and put three past the normally impregnable Mariners defence last week.
Melbourne has lost just once in eight matches since losing to Sydney at home in October and has stopped leaking goals after conceding just one goal in the past four games after having kept just two clean sheets in its first 14 matches.
But with Mark Bridge back from injury to partner in-form Alex Brosque in attack, Sydney certainly has the strikepower to test Melbourne.
However with revenge on their minds plus the motivation of Muscat's 500th game not to mention a crowd of 35,000 plus behind him, the Victory deserve to start favourites.
Melbourne Victory squad. 1.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (c), 3.Mate DUGANDZIC, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Matthew KEMP, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 13.Nathan ELASI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Matthew FOSCHINI, 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 21.Robbie KRUSE, 22.Nick WARD, 23.Adrian LEIJER, 27.Sutee SUKSOMKIT, 28.Diogo FERREIRA
*two to be omitted*
In: Nathan ELASI (promoted), Nick WARD (return from suspension), Diogo FERREIRA (promoted from NYL) Out: Surat SUKHA (hamstring - 6 weeks)
Unavailable: Marvin ANGULO (pending registration), Evan BERGER (hamstring - 4 weeks), Grant BREBNER (ankle - 4 weeks), Billy CELESKI (knee - season), Steven PACE (abdomen - indefinite)
Sydney FC squad: 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 2. Sebastian RYALL, 3.Stephan KELLER, 6. Karol KISEL, 7. Brendan GAN, 8. Stuart MUSIALIK, 19. Mark BRIDGE, 10. Steve CORICA (c), 16. Chris PAYNE, 12. Shannon COLE, 14. Alex BROSQUE, 15. Terry MCFLYNN, 18.Adam CASEY, 20. Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 22. Sung Hwan BYUN, 23. Rhyan GRANT
*one to be omitted*
In: Mark BRIDGE (return from injury) Out: John ALOISI (hamstring - 1 week), Simon COLOSIMO (suspended - 1 week)