Preview: Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC

The Victory are still seething over losing the Premiers' Plate to Sydney last Sunday, exacerbated by Robbie Kruse's injury courtesy of a Terry McFlynn tackle.

Date: Thursday, February 18 Kick-off: 7:30pm AEDT Venue: Etihad Stadium TV and Radio: Live and exclusive on Fox Sports 2 from 7pm. Radio 774 ABC Melbourne or online through abc.net.au from 7.05pm

Head-to-head Played 15: Melbourne Victory 5, Sydney FC 4, Draws 6

Previous Meeting Sydney FC 2, Melbourne Victory 0, February 2010, Sydney Football Stadium

Past five matches: Melbourne Victory: Round 24: Melbourne Victory 2, Adelaide United 0, Etihad Stadium Round 19: Melbourne Victory 4, Wellington Phoenix 0, Etihad Stadium Round 25: Gold Coast United 1, Melbourne Victory 0, Skilled Park Round 26: Melbourne Victory 2, North Queensland Fury 0, Etihad Stadium Round 27: Sydney FC 2, Melbourne Victory 0, Sydney Football Stadium

Sydney FC: Round 23: Sydney FC 0, Gold Coast United 1, Sydney Football Stadium Round 24: Newcastle Jets 1, Sydney FC 3, Energy Australia Stadium Round 25: Brisbane Roar 1, Sydney FC 0, Suncorp Stadium Round 26: Sydney FC 3, Perth Glory 2, Sydney Football Stadium Round 27: Sydney FC 2, Melbourne Victory 0, Sydney Football Stadium

Analysis:

These two teams could be thoroughly sick of the sight of each other by the end of March, with the first leg of the major semi-final being the second of potentially four meetings inside six weeks.

And that old saying about familiarity breeding contempt could well hold true.

The Victory are still seething over losing the Premiers' Plate to Sydney last Sunday, exacerbated by Robbie Kruse's injury courtesy of a Terry McFlynn tackle.

While Ernie Merrick refuses to use the word 'revenge', there is no doubt the Melbourne mentor is counting the minutes until kick off.

Asked what will be different four days after his side's defeat in Sydney, Merrick deadpanned: "We're at home and we've got Kevin Muscat."

Yes, the Victory will be a vastly different unit with the combative Muscat back to shore up the defence and get in the face of anyone wearing sky blue.

Also returning to the Melbourne squad are Evan Berger and Mate Dugandzic, while Merrick has promoted Aziz Behich from the National Youth League.

There is still no Archie Thompson, his return at least two weeks away.

The Sky Blues are without inspirational skipper Steve Corica, his season and career now over after limping out of the last round clash with a serious hamstring injury.

Brendan Gan did well when called into action after 18 minutes on Sunday and is likely to start the semi-final.

There are also bench spots for Youth League players Iain Ramsay and Sam Munro.

Karol Kisel, who really stepped up in Corica's absence, will again be the player Sydney looks towards to spark things in attack.

But it's at the back where the Sky Blues have had Melbourne's measure.

In racking up two wins and a draw over their bitter rivals this season, Lavicka's men are yet to concede.

Merrick insists he is not worried because Victory are still carving out chances; a statement akin to an out-of-form batsman telling you he's hitting them well in the nets.

Without Kruse and Thompson, Melbourne will be hoping player-of-the-year Carlos Hernandez makes more of an impact than he did in Sydney.

The visitors will be happy to go home with a draw and don't discount John Aloisi continuing his rich run of form (three goals in two games).

With feelings running high, this should be an absolute cracker.

Melbourne Victory: 1.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (c), 3.Mate DUGANDZIC, 5.Surat SUKHA, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 8.Grant BREBNER, 11.Marvin ANGULO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 13.Nathan ELASI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Matthew FOSCHINI, 19. Evan BERGER, 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 22.Nick WARD, 23.Adrian LEIJER, 25.Aziz BEHICH, 29.Nik MRDJA *Two to be omitted

In: Aziz BEHICH (promoted from NYL), Evan BERGER (return from injury), Mate DUGANDZIC (return from injury), Kevin MUSCAT (return from suspension)

Out: Robbie KRUSE (ankle, season)

Sydney FC: 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 3. Stephan KELLER, 4.Simon COLOSIMO, 6. Karol KISEL, 7. Brendan GAN, 8. Stuart MUSIALIK, 9. John ALOISI, 12. Shannon COLE, 14. Alex BROSQUE, 15. Terry MCFLYNN, 22. Sung-Hwan BYUN, 26. Hayden FOXE 28, Sam MUNRO, 29. Iain Ramsay

In: Sam Munro (promoted), Iain Ramsay (promoted)

Out: Steve Corica (hamstring - season)

Unavailable: Kofi DANNING (knee - season), Matthew JURMAN (foot - season), Sebastian RYALL (knee - 2 weeks)