Preview: Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC
After fronting as the red-hot teams of the Hyundai A-League earlier this season, it's hard to believe this clash of arch enemies will be a desperate battle of survival rather than a genuine bout between heavyweights.
Date: Saturday December 27 Kick-off: 7pm local (AEST) Venue: Telstra Dome 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 Past 11 Hyundai A-League meetings: Melbourne Victory - 4 wins, Sydney FC - 2 wins, Draws - 5.
Previous meeting Melbourne Victory 0, Sydney FC 2, Telstra Dome, Round 9, October 2008
Past Five Games Melbourne Victory Round 11: Queensland Roar 0, Melbourne Victory 1, Suncorp Stadium 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
Sydney FC Round 12: Adelaide United 2, Sydney FC 0, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 13: Sydney FC 1, Queensland Roar 1, Sydney Football Stadium Round 14: Newcastle Jets 1, Sydney FC 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 15: Central Coast 2, Sydney FC 1, Bluetongue Stadium Round 16: Sydney FC 2, Perth Glory 3, Sydney Football Stadium
Analysis After fronting as the red-hot teams of the Hyundai A-League earlier this season, it's hard to believe this clash of arch enemies will be a desperate battle of survival rather than a genuine bout between heavyweights.
While both sides are still well and truly in the finals race, they're experiencing form slumps heading into their final game of 2008.
Melbourne Victory have lost their past three games against bottom-three sides and cling to third place. Last week they trailed the Newcastle Jets 4-0 before hitting back with a couple of consolation goals.
Sydney has taken just one point from its last five games, is in sixth position and could slip even further with another hiccup. It was also jumped by a lower-ranked side last round with the Perth Glory beating it 4-1.
Apart from some distracting off-field incidents, the Victory's main problem lies in defence. After conceding just 12 goals in the first 12 games of the season, they've leaked nine goals during their recent losing streak.
While their defence is experienced, Victory may look to promote Matthew Kemp on Saturday, especially if Evan Berger hasn't fully recovered from a rolled ankle. Other inclusions to the side are Sebastian Ryall and Leigh Broxham.
Billy Celeski, who signed with the club for a further two years and should be primed for another big game, said Melbourne needed to shrug off the flatness that has plagued it in recent games and play with more desperation.
This should be facilitated by a return to the Telstra Dome after a tough series of road trips.
Sydney's performance last week, its heaviest loss at home this season, was embarrassing for the Sky Blues. But statistics, and coach John Kosmina, suggest the result could have been closer.
Sydney had more shots on goal, more possession and the corner count was 15-3 in its favour.
Antony Golec and Robbie Middleby scored own goals which didn't help its cause either.
Perhaps luck wasn't with Sydney FC in that contest but its overall form in recent times suggests it wasn't an aberration either.
When marquee player John Aloisi is blowing golden opportunities to score and Shannon Cole and Brendan Gan are your best performing players then you know the whole team is struggling.
Sydney beat Melbourne in their last clash but expect the Victory to break their losing streak and continue the Sky Blues' woes with a 2-1 result.
Melbourne Victory Squad. 1.Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (Captain), 3.Michael THWAITE, 5.Sebastian RYALL, 7.Matthew KEMP, 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, 18.Leigh BROXHAM, 19.Evan BERGER, 20.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 22.Nick WARD.
*One to be omitted
In. Sebastian RYALL (promoted), Leigh BROXHAM (promoted)
Sydney FC Squad. 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 2. Iain FYFE, 7. Rob MIDDLEBY, 8. Stuart MUSIALIK, 10. Steve CORICA (c), 12. Shannon COLE, 14. Alex BROSQUE, 19. Mark BRIDGE, 20. Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 23. John ALOISI, 28. Bobby PETTA, 29. Beau BUSCH, 31. Antony GOLEC, 32. Brendan GAN, 34. Rhyan GRANT.