Preview: Melbourne Victory v Sydney

These two have a massive rivalry, which was franked by their epic Grand final in 2010 which saw Sydney FC crowned champions on penalties.

Date: Saturday, October 8 Kick-off: 6.30pm AEDT Venue: Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

Head-to-head Played: 22. Wins: Melbourne Victory 7, Sydney 4, Draws: 10

Previous encounter Sydney FC 1, Melbourne Victory 1, SFS, January 2011

History: These two have a massive rivalry, which was franked by their epic Grand final in 2010 which saw Sydney FC crowned champions on penalties. There has always been plenty of action and plenty of controversy between these two, while the first match of last season saw six goals and a draw. Victory won their home match against the Sky Blues comfortably before the teams shared the spoils in the third match, with Juho Makela scoring a last minute equaliser at the SFS.

Pre-Season Form: Melbourne Victory: DWLWL Sydney FC: DLLLW

Form Summary: Melbourne had had a pretty strong pre-season, with their first match against Scottish giants Celtic in July, a game they lost 1-0. They played four games against VPL sides, losing two and winning two before playing Gold Coast United and losing 1-0, beating Brisbane 2-0 and then drawing with Adelaide 1-1.

Sydney began the pre-season well enough, winning three and drawing one of their first four warm-up games against lower league opponents, but they then suffered two defeats against Sutherland Sharks and Sydney Olympic. The also lost to the Newcastle Jets before Brett Emerton's arrival spurred them to a 2-2 draw with Perth.

Match Committee: Victory will be without Carlos Hernandez for this match, as he is on international duty, while Tando Velaphi's leg fracture led the club to give former Socceroo keeper Ante Covic an SOS call. Covic will step in straight away. Other than that, Victory have a relatively clean bill of health, with Marco Rojas recovering from a pre-season hamstring injury. It means Mehmet Durakovic will have a tough choice at selection, working out which attacking players to play.

Sydney have been busy rebuilding their side in the off-season and that has yielded defenders Michael Beauchamp and Pascal Bosschaart as well as Jamie Coyne and of course Brett Emerton. Internationals Juho Makela and Karol Kisel are both ruled out, while Vitezslav Lavicka is set to give Mark Bridge the nod over Bruno Cazarine up front. Liam Reddy has won back the keeping gloves from Ivan Necevski.

Danger men: Harry Kewell - Who else but the most-hyped signing in the history of the Hyundai A-League? He showed enough in 45 minutes against Adelaide in a pre-season match to give the fans every hope he can put on performances to match his reputation. He is set to play just in behind the strikers, allowing Archie Thompson to do what he does best - score goals.

Brett Emerton - It is not all about the two Socceroos, but they are no doubt the best players on each side. Emerton is not as hyped as Kewell but having knocked back an EPL future to come to Australia, he comes with better recent credentials. His pace and touch will give Sydney a real presence in midfield, and allow Nick Carle to concentrate on creating attacking chances rather than winning the ball.

At the end of the day… This is a ripping first day match with so many plots and sub plots. At the highest level, it is about the two most successful clubs in the comp, having won two tiles each, facing off for early bragging rights.

Then there's the Kewell v Emerton battle, which while it won't be head to head in a tactical sense, will be hard fought by both men. Emerton gives a real touch of class in the midfield, while Kewell adds to an attacking set-up already overflowing with talent. It will be fascinating to see what impact they make, not just in this match but over the whole season.

The new-look Sydney defence will be put under plenty of pressure by the Melbourne using up to five players pushing into attack. Victory coach Durakovic has predicted a new style of play and that is likely to see the ball being moved around the park a lot more.

Sydney's best hope of getting the three points here is if Emerton and Carle can get onto the ball and control the game more than their opponents. Their distribution should look to stretch the Victory defence, which is probably short of genuine speed.

Grant Brebner looms as an important player for Melbourne, distributing the ball forward from the back, so if Sydney can cut him out of the game and make him accountable when they are in control, then they could have some joy, especially with the speed of Bridge up front.

Pre-season form would indicate that Victory are probably in better touch at the start of the season, while Sydney's off-season defensive shuffle might mean that their new signings take some time to settle. If they are the real deal this year, Victory will take the opportunity to get the three points.