Preview: Melbourne Victory v Queensland Roar
These two teams both escaped with wins last week from games which they looked like losing at some stage. Melbourne's come-from-behind win over Sydney and Queensland's last-minute success over Wellington has set up this match beautifully, with both teams on the same points and only one goal separating them on goal difference.
Date: Friday, January 2 Kick-off: 8:00pm AEDT Venue: Telstra Dome, Melbourne TV and Radio: Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1 and Sky Sport 1. Hyundai A-League club radio broadcast partner is SEN (Melbourne) 1116AM. To purchase tickets visit www.ticketmaster.com.au
Head-to-head 11 Hyundai A-League meetings: Wins: Melbourne 6, Queensland 4, Draws - 1
Previous meeting Queensland 0, Melbourne 1, Suncorp Stadium, Round 11, November 2008
Past Five Games Melbourne Round 12: Melbourne Victory 2, Central Coast Mariners 1, Telstra Dome Round 13: Wellington Phoenix 2, Melbourne Victory 1, Westpac Stadium Round 14: Perth Glory 3, Melbourne Victory 1, Members Equity Stadium Round 16: Newcastle Jets 4, Melbourne Victory 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 17: Melbourne Victory 3, Sydney FC 2, Telstra Dome
Queensland: Round 12: Queensland Roar 4, Perth Glory 1, Suncorp Stadium Round 13: Sydney FC 1, Queensland Roar 1, Sydney Football Stadium Round 14: Central Coast Mariners 1, Queensland Roar 1, Bluetongue Stadium Round 15: Queensland Roar 2, Newcastle Jets 1, Suncorp Stadium Round 17: Queensland Roar 3, Wellington Phoenix 2, Suncorp Stadium
Analysis These two teams both escaped with wins last week from games which they looked like losing at some stage. Melbourne's come-from-behind win over Sydney and Queensland's last-minute success over Wellington has set up this match beautifully, with both teams on the same points and only one goal separating them on goal difference.
A loss here to either team could seriously damage their hopes of taking top spot at the end of season, while a win sends a strong message out to Adelaide, currently one point clear on top, that there will be a big battle for the premiership.
Queensland is the form team at the moment having gone through its past five games unbeaten and won five of its past eight, however all of those wins have been against sides currently outside the top four. Last week's win over the Phoenix, which came courtesy of a stunning Tommy Oar goal in injury time, saw the Roar register back-to-back victories for just the second time this season. This is a season-defining period for the Roar, who have won just one match against top four opposition for the year. In the space of 12 days they play away to the other top three teams, meaning Frank Farina will get a very good gauge of where his players are at.
It's a similar story for Melbourne which takes on the other three currently at the top of the table in the next four matches, including Adelaide just four days after this match. However, Ernie Merrick's men have the advantage of playing all these matches at home as part of a kind finish to the year which sees them travel just once, to Perth, in January.
Farina, who gets veteran hard man Danny Tiatto back from suspension and has included Ben Griffin, will take confidence in the strong record the Roar have in Melbourne, having won three of five matches in the Victorian capital, including earlier this season when Tahj Minniecon and Michael Zullo put on a late show to take the points.
For Melbourne, which broke a three-match losing streak with its stunning 3-2 win over Sydney last week, the 1-0 win over the Roar in Round 11 in Brisbane will serve as a confidence booster. Having struggled during a tough mid-season period which featured five away matches in six, the early-season pacesetters have their belief and momentum back.
The Victory also have back experienced internationals Grant Brebner and Jose Luis Lopez, giving Merrick plenty to ponder at the selection table given he has close to a full squad to choose from.
Melbourne Victory: 1.Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (c), 3.Michael THWAITE, 5.Sebastian RYALL, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 9.Danny ALLSOPP, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 14.Billy CELESKI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Jose Luis LOPEZ, 19.Evan BERGER, 20.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 22.Nick WARD. *two to be omitted
In: 8.Grant BREBNER, 17.Jose Luis LOPEZ
Others Unavailable: Nil
Queensland Roar Squad: 1.Liam REDDY (gk), 2.Andrew PACKER, 3.Luke DEVERE, 4.Craig MOORE (c), 5.Josh McCLOUGHAN, 7.Michael ZULLO, 8.Massimo MURDOCCA, 9.Sergio VAN DIJK, 12.Tahj MINNIECON, 14.Ben GRIFFIN, 15.Matthew McKAY, 17.Mitch NICHOLS, 18. Danny TIATTO, 20.Griffin McMASTER (gk), 21.Tommy OAR.
In: Ben GRIFFIN (promoted), Danny TIATTO (returns from suspension).
Out: Tim SMITS (omitted), Chris GROSSMAN (omitted).
Others Unavailable: REINALDO (groin injury), Isaka Cernak (knee injury), Charlie MILLER (hernia).