Get set for a carnival atmosphere with Victory expected to be confirmed as Premiers’ Plate winners in the final round of the Hyundai A-League season against Central Coast Mariners at AAMI Park.
Sunday, 26 April 2015
AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-Off: 5:00 PM (Local) (5:00 PM AEST)
Melbourne Victory squad: 4.Nick ANSELL, 5.Mark MILLIGAN (c), 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Gui FINKLER, 8.Besart BERISHA, 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.Connor PAIN, 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 15.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 17.Matthieu DELPIERRE, 18.Dylan MURNANE, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (GK), 21.Carl VALERI, 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 24.Scott GALLOWAY, 42.Lucas SPINELLA (GK)
***two to be omitted***
Ins: 18.Dylan MURNANE (promoted), 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS (promoted)
Unavailable: 1.Nathan COE (gk) (injured), 2.Jason GERIA (injured), 26.Jordan BROWN (injured)
Central Coast Mariners squad: 1.Matthew NASH (gk), 2.Storm ROUX, 3.Josh ROSE, 4.Jacob POSCOLIERO, 5.Zac ANDERSON, 7.John HUTCHINSON (c), 8.Nick MONTGOMERY, 10.Anthony CACERES, 11.Nick FITZGERALD, 15. Matthew SIM, 16.Liam ROSE, 18.Glen TRIFIRO, 19.Matthew SIMON, 20.Anthony KALIK, 23.Isaka CERNAK, 25.Eddy BOSNAR, 26.Fabio FERREIRA, 30. Adam PEARCE (gk)
***two to be omitted***
Ins: 15.Matt Sim (promoted), 26.Fabio FERREIRA (return from injury), 30. Adam PEARCE (gk) (promoted),
Outs: 12.Liam REDDY (gk) (suspended)
Unavailable: 17.Richard VERNES (shoulder – indefinite), 21.Michael NEILL (foot – indefinite)
Referee: Peter Green
Assistant Referee 1: George Lakrindis
Assistant Referee 2: Luke Brennan
Fourth Official: Patrick Chaplin
TV Broadcast: Live coverage on FOX SPORTS 505 from 5.00pm (AEST) and Sky Sport 3 (New Zealand)
Radio Broadcast: Online/ABC Radio Mobile phone app.
Fans of one of the biggest and best-supported clubs in the Hyundai A-League are set to pack out AAMI Park this weekend for the expected coronation of Kevin Muscat's team as Premiers' Plate winners for the first time since 2009.
It's been a long road back to the top.
Following the departure of two-time title-winning coach Ernie Merrick and, after the abortive reigns of Mehmet Durakovic and Jim Magilton - and Harry Kewell's brief but ultimately unsuccessful spell as marquee player - it took the arrival of Ange Postecoglou from Brisbane Roar in 2012 to set the Big V back on the path to success.
Former club captain Muscat has built on the foundations set down by Postecoglou and, crucially, his recruitment has proven more successful than the efforts of the man lured away to coach the Socceroos, although they have shared the same football operations manager in Paul Trimboli.
The arrival of Carl Valeri, Besart Berisha and Fahid Ben Khalfallah has been instrumental in Victory's climb to the top of the standings, while Muscat has also succeeded in re-signing Guilherme Finkler and fending off interest in Mark Milligan.
Matthieu Delpierre has spent much of the campaign on the sidelines but the veteran French centre-back returned to fitness at the perfect moment, replacing Adrian Leijer when the ex-skipper departed for the Chinese Super League last month.
On Sunday evening the scenario is very simple – should Sydney FC fail to beat Wellington Phoenix away from home just a little earlier in the day, Victory's position at the top will be unassailable.
Even if Sydney do win, it will take a hefty Sky Blues triumph coupled with a heavy Victory loss for Graham Arnold's men to sensationally snatch first place, given the fact Muscat's men have a goal difference of +23 to Sydney's +16 going into Round 27.
Barring an extraordinary sequence of events, which would include a stunning performance from a Mariners team with nothing to play for, Victory fans can roll up to AAMI Park ready to party.
- Melbourne Victory have won their last four encounters with Central Coast, scoring 11 and conceding just three goals in that run.
- The Mariners are winless in six matches away to Victory (D3 L3). They last beat Victory away in November 2009.
- Victory have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last eight home games against the Mariners, though they’ve also scored in the last six (W3 D3 L2).
- The Mariners are yet to win on the road this season in A-League (D6 L7).
- Melbourne Victory have won just one of their last four home games (D1 L2) though this was against the Mariners in March.
ROUTE TO GOAL
Victory weren't at their fluent best in the second of two successive away games against Brisbane Roar last time out and needed a Mark Milligan penalty to claim all three points. Prior to that Carl Valeri's long-range strike and a well-taken Besart Berisha goal, created by an excellent passing move and set up by Fahid Ben Khalfallah's delightful assist, earned a 2-1 win at Suncorp Stadium.
There was a determined, gritty aspect to the Big V's two successes in Queensland. The game on Sunday by contrast, with the pressure largely off, represents an opportunity for the likes of Kosta Barbarouses and Guilherme Finkler to play their way back into top form ahead of the finals.
The Mariners have benefited from strong performances produced by the likes of Nick Fitzgerald, a goal-scorer away to Wellington last weekend, and Isaka Cernak who set-up the forward with a world-class through-ball at the Cake Tin.
The journeyman midfielder has been in career-best form in recent weeks and will want to show Victory fans exactly what he's capable of on his return to a club where he failed to make an impression between 2011 and 2013.
WHO’S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?
Fears over Nathan Coe's fitness were confirmed, with Victory's first-choice goalkeeper ruled out of the finals as he prepares to undergo surgery on Friday to correct a nerve-related back problem.
FORM LINES (past five games)
Melbourne Victory: WWLWW
Victory have won four of their last five matches, beating Brisbane Roar 1-0 and 2-1 in successive away matches last week. They surprisingly lost 1-0 at home to the Newcastle Jets, but prior to that they'd beaten Wellington Phoenix 3-0 away and the Mariners 2-1 at home.
Central Coast: LWLLD
The Mariners went down 3-2 away to the Phoenix last time out, having beaten Western Sydney 1-0 at home the week before. Prior to that they were thumped 6-1 away to Brisbane Roar, lost 2-1 at Victory and held Perth Glory to a 1-1 draw in Gosford.
DID YOU KNOW?
- No keeper has made more saves this season (106) than the Mariners’ Liam Reddy.
Melbourne Victory 2-1 Central Coast Mariners
The visitors have – for the most part – looked tougher to beat under Tony Walmsley and certainly won't meekly surrender this weekend. Should Sydney fail to win heavily, Victory's Premiers' Plate triumph will effectively be confirmed before kick-off at AAMI Park. Nevertheless, Muscat and his players will want to sign off on the regular season in style before enjoying a week off, so we're backing the home side to make things official with a convincing triumph in this one.