Preview: Melbourne Victory v Adelaide United

Melbourne is unbeaten in home in its past three matches and it seems that like in its run to the championship last year, the Victory is saving their best for Etihad Stadium. That spells bad news for Adelaide.

Date: Saturday January 16 Kick-off: 7:00pm AEDT, 4:00pm AWST Venue: Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

Head-to-head Played 20: Wins: Melbourne Victory 12, Adelaide Reds 5. Draws: 3

Previous Meeting Melbourne Victory 3, Adelaide United 1, Etihad Stadium, October 2009

Past five matches: Melbourne Victory: Round 18: Central Coast Mariners 0, Melbourne Victory 3, Bluetongue Stadium Round 20: Melbourne Victory 0, Sydney FC 0, Etihad Stadium Round 21: North Queensland Fury 1, Melbourne Victory 0, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 22: Newcastle Jets 3, Melbourne Victory 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 23: Melbourne Victory 6, Perth Glory 2, Etihad Stadium

Adelaide United: Round 20: Adelaide United 1, Wellington Phoenix 1, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 21: Sydney FC 1, Adelaide United 0, Sydney Football Stadium Round 22: Gold Coast 1, Adelaide United 1, Skilled Park Round 23: Adelaide United 1, Central Coast Mariners 1, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 19: Adelaide United 2, Perth Glory 3, Hindmarsh Stadium

Analysis: Melbourne and Adelaide head into Saturday's clash at Etihad Stadium with vastly different motivations. Melbourne is in the heat of a battle for the premiership with just two points separating the top three teams, while Adelaide needs a win if it is going to get off the bottom of the table.

The Melbourne-Adelaide rivalry is undoubtedly the strongest in the competition based on their two Grand Finals against each other in 2007 and 2009. But of recent times, Melbourne has firmly held the whip hand in these battles, winning eight consecutive matches from the start of last season.

The Victory trumped the Reds in six matches last season, including three finals, while a 2-1 win in Adelaide and a 3-1 success at Etihad have extended the streak further. Reds coach Aurelio Vidmar has been at a loss to explain why Melbourne has had the wood over his team for such an extended period of time, but there is no doubt the Adelaide defence struggles to deal with the pace of Archie Thompson and the clever passing of Carlos Hernandez.

Adelaide has rarely gone into a clash with Melbourne with such a lack of confidence. It has not won a match in six and in its last encounter at home to Perth coughed up a two-goal lead to go down 3-2 at Hindmarsh Stadium on Tuesday night.

Considering Melbourne pummelled Perth 6-2 last week, it would take some reversal of form for the Reds to prevail in this match. Adelaide has won just one match in 12 and is currently two points adrift at the bottom of the table.

The positive is the calibre of players available to return for this match. Robbie Cornthwaite, Scott Jamieson and Alemao are all back from injury, Iain Fyfe got his red card overturned during the week, so is free to play while Francesco Monterosso has also been included. Experienced midfielder Lucas Pantelis misses through suspension, while Cassio is out injured.

Prior to that extraordinary match with Perth, there were some concerns over where Melbourne's form was at after back-to-back away losses to North Queensland and Newcastle. But in 90 minutes of stunning football, which included a hat-trick from youngster Robbie Kruse, Melbourne banished any doubts over its' title credentials and launched itself back in pole position for the Premiers' Plate.

If Melbourne wins this match and the mid-week fixture against Wellington on Tuesday it will be on top of the table regardless of other results over the weekend. Importantly, it has close to its best available squad for what looms as an important six days, with the two home matches followed by a trip to Gold Coast.

It has included a pair of youngsters, Nathan Elasi and Mate Dugandzic, into an extended squad, but Matthew Kemp, Surat Sukha and Evan Berger's return has been delayed by at least a few days. Ernie Merrick seems likely to stick with the same squad which smashed Perth last week, and you can't blame him for maintaining the faith.

Melbourne is unbeaten in home in its past three matches and it seems that like in its run to the championship last year, the Victory is saving their best for Etihad Stadium. That spells bad news for Adelaide.

Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (c), 3.Mate DUGANDZIC, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 8.Grant BREBNER, 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, 25.Aziz BEHICH, 26.Marvin ANGULO *two to be omitted*

In: Mate DUGANDZIC (promoted), Nathan ELASI (promoted)

Out: Nil

Unavailable: Evan BERGER (hamstring, 1 week), Billy CELESKI (knee, season), Matthew KEMP (hamstring, 1 week), Steven PACE (abdomen, indefinite), Surat SUKHA (hamstring, 1 week)

Adelaide United squad: 1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk), 2.Robert CORNTHWAITE, 3. ALEMAO, 4.Iain FYFE, 5.Daniel MULLEN, 9.CRISTIANO, 10.Adam HUGHES, 11.Lloyd OWUSU, 13.Travis DODD (c), 14.Scott JAMIESON, 15. Francesco MONTEROSSO, 16.Inseob SHIN, 17.Michael MARRONE, 18.Fabian BARBIERO, 19.Mathew LECKIE, 20.Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk), 21.Mark RUDAN *two to be omitted*

In: Robert CORNTHWAITE (promoted), Scott JAMIESON (promoted), ALEMAO (returns from injury), Francesco MONTEROSSO (promoted)

Out: Lucas PANTELIS (suspended - 1 match), CASSIO (calf - 1 week)

Unavailable: Paul REID (groin - 2 weeks), Joe COSTA (knee - long term injury list)