Preview: Melbourne Victory v Adelaide United
Adelaide's assignment is not a complex one. It needs to win by two goals be any hope of hosting the Grand Final. If it's a 2-0 result we go to extra time, then perhaps penalties, while any other two-goal margin gets the Reds straight through to the decider.
Date: Saturday, February 14 Kick-off: 7:30pm AEDT Venue: Telstra Dome, Melbourne TV and Radio: Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 3, Sky Sport 3 and ABC Radio. To purchase tickets visit www.ticketmaster.com.au
Head-to-head 16 Hyundai A-League meetings: Adelaide - 5 wins, Melbourne - 8 wins, Draws - 3
Previous meeting Adelaide United 0, Melbourne Victory 2, Hindmarsh Stadium, Major Semi-Final first leg, February 2009
Finals meetings: Adelaide United 0, Melbourne Victory 2, Hindmarsh Stadium, Major Semi-Final first leg, 2008/09 Melbourne Victory 6, Adelaide United 0, Telstra Dome, Grand Final, 2006/07 Melbourne Victory 2, Adelaide United 0, Telstra Dome, Major Semi-Final second leg, 2006/07 Adelaide United 0, Melbourne Victory 0, Hindmarsh Stadium, Major Semi-Final first leg, 2006/07
Past Five Games Adelaide: Round 19: Adelaide United 2, Newcastle Jets 0, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 16: Adelaide United 0, Queensland Roar 0, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 20: Wellington Phoenix 1, Adelaide United 1, Westpac Stadium Round 21: Central Coast Mariners 0, Adelaide United 1, Bluetongue Stadium Major-Semi (Leg 1): Adelaide United 0, Melbourne Victory 2, Hindmarsh Stadium
Melbourne Round 15: Melbourne Victory 1, Adelaide United 0, Telstra Dome Round 19: Perth Glory 3. Melbourne Victory 1, Members Equity Stadium Round 20: Melbourne Victory 3, Central Coast Mariners 0, Telstra Dome Round 21: Melbourne Victory 2, Wellington Phoenix 0, Telstra Dome Major-Semi (Leg 1): Adelaide United 0, Melbourne Victory 2, Hindmarsh Stadium
Analysis Adelaide's assignment is not a complex one. It needs to win by two goals be any hope of hosting the Grand Final. If it's a 2-0 result we go to extra time, then perhaps penalties, while any other two-goal margin gets the Reds straight through to the decider.
Now, here's the problem. Adelaide has played Melbourne four times this year and has lost all four matches. In those matches, spanning 360 minutes of football, the Reds have scored just two goals. They now need to do at least that in the space of 90 minutes.
Adelaide has never won a final against the Victory in four attempts and has only beaten Melbourne once in the past 10 matches between the teams.
The Reds were comprehensively outplayed against the Victory last week, who could have won by more than the two-goal margin. Melbourne controlled the midfield, was imposing in defence, and scored two goals on the counterattack.
The Reds now have to go to Telstra Dome, a venue where they have won just once in six attempts, and attack Melbourne. That may just play into the hands of Victory strikers Archie Thompson and Danny Allsopp, who are the two best exponents of counterattacking football in the country.
Is it all negative for Adelaide? Well, if you add in injuries to Kristian Sarkies and Michael Valkanis, then it certainly doesn't look good. But the Reds are a tough club, and there is no doubt Aurelio Vidmar would have read his troops the riot act during the week.
Vidmar has kept his options well and truly open, bringing in six players, including Robert Cornthwaite, who missed the first leg through suspension. Cassio, Angelo Costanzo, Jonas Salley, Robert Younis and Diego are also in the mix. You get the feeling it will be a very attacking looking line-up with Rostyn Griffiths a chance to make a debut after playing in the Youth League last week.
Ernie Merrick has insisted his team will not sit on its lead and will press for a win in this match. But he has conceded Carlos Hernandez won't start having travelled back from Costa Rica and arrived on the morning of the match. His choice is whether to include an attacking player Ney Fabiano or shore up the defence with the likes of Grant Brebner.
As usual, Merrick is playing his cards close to his chest and has included Michael Thwaite, Leigh Broxham and Nathan Elasi into an extended squad.
Melbourne has won its past six matches at Telstra Dome by an aggregate of nine goals, while its win against the Reds made it six from their past seven overall. Having collected the Premiership, the Victory are deservedly Championship favourites and it would be a major slip-up if they let Adelaide get over the top of them here.
Melbourne Victory Squad: 1.Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (Captain), 3.Michael THWAITE, 5.Sebastian RYALL, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 9.Danny ALLSOPP, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 13.Nathan ELASI, 14.Billy CELESKI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Jose Luis LOPEZ, 18.Leigh BROXHAM, 19.Evan BERGER, 20.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 22.Nick WARD.
*Three to be omitted.
In: Michael THWAITE (promoted), Nathan ELASI (promoted), Leigh BROXHAM (promoted). Out: Nil. Unavailable: Nil.
Adelaide United Squad: 20.Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk), 2.Robert CORNTHWAITE, 3.ALEMAO, 4.Angelo COSTANZO, 6.CASSIO, 7.Lucas PANTELIS, 9.Paul AGOSTINO, 10.CRISTIANO, 13.Travis DODD (capt.), 14.Scott JAMIESON, 15.Jonas SALLEY, 16.Daniel MULLEN, 18.Fabian BARBIERO, 19.Sasa OGNENOVSKI, 22. DIEGO, 24.Paul REID, 25.Robert YOUNIS, 27.Michael MARRONE, 28.Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 30.Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk) * 4 to be omitted.
In: Robert CORNTHWAITE (returns from suspension), CASSIO (returns from injury), Angelo COSTANZO (promoted), Jonas SALLEY (promoted), Robert YOUNIS (promoted), DIEGO (returns from injury).
Out: Kristian SARKIES (ankle - 3 weeks), Michael VALKANIS (calf - 2 weeks).
Unavailable: Daniel BELTRAME (gk) (knee - season), Jason SPAGNUOLO (long term injury).