Sydney FC shocked Wellington and perhaps the rest of the league last round, but a win over Victory on Australia Day would be a real notch in their belt.
Date: Saturday, January 26, 2013 Kick-off: 5.30pm AEDT Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Head-to-head: Played: 25, Wins: Victory 8, Sydney 6, Draws: 11
Previous encounter: Sydney FC 2-3 Melbourne Victory, November 10, 2012
Form: Past five matches: Victory: WDWLW Sydney FC: WWDLW
The Game: Matches between these two fierce rivals are always special but Sydney's recent resurgence and Melbourne's sensational form gives this clash an added edge.
While the Victory are 10 points and four places higher than the Sky Blues, both sides have picked up the same number of points from their past five games, meaning there should be very little between them. Ange Postecoglou's side came away from the tough trip to Perth last weekend with a solid 1-0 win and welcome back in-form midfielder Billy Celeski from suspension. Defender Nick Ansell missed the Glory clash with a groin injury and is racing the clock to make a return. If the Victory were impressive in their win then Sydney were sensational as they crushed a hapless Wellington 7-1.
Marquee man Alessandro Del Piero was the star with four goals and his partnership with new striker Joel Griffiths should only get stronger. Defender Adam Griffiths is available again after a knee injury and could win a spot on the bench, but it's hard to see Frank Farina making any changes to his starting side after their best performance in some time. The Victory came from two goals down to win 3-2 in the last meeting between the teams with then-Sky Blues boss Ian Crook stepping down as coach less than 24 hours later.
The big issue: Victory - Is star man Marco Rojas set to play his last game for the club?
While the Victory have been confident the Kiwi winger will stay until the end of the season, it's emerged this week European giants Liverpool and Juventus will have representatives in the stands to watch Rojas against the Sky Blues with a view to making an offer. While Rojas has been in sublime form throughout the season, there is the danger the pressure of performing in front of scouts from those clubs could affect his performance. Postecoglou will be hoping that isn't the case.
Sydney - There's no doubting confidence will be sky high in the Sydney camp following their huge win over the Phoenix. But as Farina was quick to point out straight after that clash, it will mean very little unless they can back it up again this week. Consistency has been the Sky Blues' problem for much of the season and Farina will need to get his players' feet back on the ground quickly to ensure they can reproduce something similar against the impressive Victory.
The game breaker: Alessandro Del Piero - Could it be anyone else? The Italian produced a master-class in finishing against the Phoenix last weekend scoring four goals in a match for the first time in his career. With a strike partner who will take a bit more heat off him in Joel Griffiths it's not out of the question that Del Piero will get even better in the second half of the season. Given his influence over Sydney's fortunes, it would come as no surprise if Postecoglou decided to get Mark Milligan to man-mark the 38-year-old to try and stifle Del Piero's impact.
Prediction: Victory 2-2 Sydney If there's half as much drama and excitement as their meeting earlier in the campaign then this promises to be one of the games of the season in front of a sell-out crowd. The Sky Blues have won their past two to sit just outside the top six and while they were superb against Wellington, this will be the true test of whether they are officially 'back'. Given both sides' strong form it's hard to pick a clear winner but one thing appears certain - there should be a few goals.