Preview: Melbourne Victory v Perth Glory
Melbourne begins a run of three home games in ten days against Perth on Saturday night, having slipped to third on the table and knowing its hopes of obtaining a vital double chance as a top two finisher will depend on how it performs over the next fortnight.
Date: Saturday January 16 Kick-off: 7:00pm AEDT, 4:00pm AWST Venue: Etihad Stadium, Melbourne
Head-to-head 14 Hyundai A-League meetings: Wins: Melbourne 5, Perth 5, Draws: 4
Previous Meeting Perth Glory 1, Melbourne Victory 2, ME Bank Stadium, November 2009
Past five matches: Melbourne Victory: Round 17: Wellington Phoenix 1, Melbourne Victory 1, Westpac Stadium 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
Perth Glory: Round 17: Perth Glory 1, Brisbane Roar 1, ME Bank Stadium Round 18: North Queensland 1, Perth Glory 0, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 20: Gold Coast United 2, Perth Glory 0, Skilled Park Round 21: Perth Glory 4, Newcastle Jets 0, ME Bank Stadium Round 22: Perth Glory 0-, Sydney FC, ME Bank Stadium
Analysis: Melbourne begins a run of three home games in ten days against Perth on Saturday night, having slipped to third on the table and knowing its hopes of obtaining a vital double chance as a top two finisher will depend on how it performs over the next fortnight.
Like Melbourne, Perth has picked up just one win from its past five matches and it holds a spot in the top six by just one point. However while it is coming off a win and a draw at home, the Victory is coming off successive road defeats.
The 1-0 defeat in Townsville was followed by another poor loss in Newcastle last week. In that match, the Jets took the early lead before going down to ten men. Level at 1-1 just before half time, Victory looked set to take control, but the Jets rallied with two goals and held on to prevail 3-2.
Matthew Kemp injured his hamstring in that match and misses out here, with three youngsters Aziz Behich, Nathan Elasi and Matthew Foschini included in an extended squad. Grant Brebner is close to full fitness after an ankle injury and could be set for a return to the starting line-up, while Ernie Merrick may also look to restore Tom Pondeljak.
Melbourne turned around a poor recent record against Perth when it travelled across the Nullarbor and prevailed 2-1 in November thanks to Carlos Hernandez's late winner. The Costa Rican was in vintage touch during that period but struggled to get into the game after returning from an ankle injury last week. Archie Thompson also had a tough afternoon coming off a mid-week trip to the Middle East.
Perth has won three of its past four against Melbourne but the last time the Glory came to Etihad Stadium, they were humbled 4-0. In fact Perth has never won in Melbourne in six trips, with three losses and three draws.
It's not that surprising when you consider Perth is the most remote club and that Melbourne has traditionally been the hardest place to get a win, but the Victory's less-than-convincing home form, combined with their less-than-convincing recent form will give David Mitchell some hope.
The Glory's performance against Sydney was meritorious last week and with a bit more luck they could have got all three points. But despite that effort and the 4-0 win over the Jets before New Year's, Mitchell is under no illusions that his side needs to improve significantly. He has been very active in the transfer window, securing Daniel McBreen and Steven McGarry, but neither has been named for this match.
Jimmy Downey departed in place of McBreen, with his spot in the squad taken by the fit-again Branko Jelic, who scored twice in the first match these two played this season, which ended 2-1 in Perth's favour.
Expect a few goals in this match. The past five encounters between these two have featured 19 goals. They both like to attack and have plenty of attacking options.
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: Aziz BEHICH (promoted from NYL), Nathan ELASI (promoted), Matthew FOSCHINI (promoted)
Out: Matthew KEMP (hamstring - 2 weeks)
Unavailable: Evan BERGER (hamstring, 1 week), Billy CELESKI (knee, season), Steven PACE (abdomen, indefinite), Surat SUKHA (hamstring, 2 weeks)
Perth Glory Squad: 1.Tando VELAPHI (gk), 3.Jamie COYNE, 4.Andy TODD, 5.Jamie HARNWELL, 6.Chris COYNE, 7.Jacob BURNS (c), 11. Branko JELIC, 12.Scott NEVILLE, 13.Scott BULLOCH, 16.Adriano PELLEGRINO, 17.Todd HOWARTH, 19.Naum SEKULOVSKI, 20.Aleks VRTESKI (gk), 21.Mile STERJOVSKI, 23.Andrija JUKIC
In: Branko JELIC (return from injury)
Out: Jimmy DOWNEY (released)
Unavailable: Wayne SRHOJ (Knee - 1 week), Viktor SIKORA (Thigh - 1 week)