Preview: Melbourne Victory v Wellington Phoenix

A wounded Victory limped back into Melbourne after a disastrous midweek Westfield FFA Cup loss in Perth. How will a patched-up Big V match up with a surging Phoenix and their attacking riches? And will Victory coach Kevin Muscat get one over on his former boss and mentor, Ernie Merrick?

Monday November 3

AAMI Park, Melbourne

Kick-Off: 7:30 PM (Local) (7:30 PM AEDT)

Referee: Shaun Evans

Assistant Referee 1: George Lakrindis

Assistant Referee 2: Jonathan Barreiro

Fourth Official: Lucien Laverdure

TV Broadcast: Live and exclusive coverage on FOX SPORTS 4HD & 4 from 7.00pm (AEDT) and Sky Sport 1 (New Zealand)

Radio Broadcast: 774 ABC Melbourne, Local Radio Victoria,  Grandstand Digital, ABC Grandstand Online/ABC Radio phone app

Join the conversation on Twitter using the hash-tag #MVCvWEL

Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Nathan COE (GK), 5.Mark MILLIGAN (c) 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Gui FINKLER, 8.Besart BERISHA, 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.Connor PAIN, 13.Andrew NABBOUT 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 17.Matthieu DELPIERRE, 18.Dylan MURNANE, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (GK), 21.Carl VALERI, 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 24.Scott GALLOWAY, 26.Jordan BROWN

***Two to be omitted***

Ins: 11.Connor PAIN (promoted), 18 Dylan MURNANE (promoted), 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS (promoted), 26.Jordan BROWN (promoted)

Outs: 15.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI (suspension – 1 week), 23.Adrian LEIJER (suspension – 1 week)

Unavailable: 2.Jason GERIA (ankle - 1 week), 4.Nick ANSELL (foot - 2-3 weeks)

Wellington Phoenix Squad: 1.Glen MOSS (GK), 2.Manny MUSCAT, 4.Roly BONEVACIA, 5.Michael BOXALL, 7, Kenny CUNNINGHAM, 8.Alex RODRIGUEZ, 9.Nathan BURNS, 10.Michael McGLINCHEY, 11.Jeremy BROCKIE, 13.Albert RIERA, 16 Louis FENTON, 17.Vince LIA, 18.Ben SIGMUND, 19.Tom DOYLE, 20.Lewis ITALIANO (GK), 21.Roy KRISHNA, 22.Andrew DURANTE (c), 23.Matthew RIDENTON.

***two to be omitted***

Ins: 21.Roy KRISHNA (promoted), 23.Matthew RIDENTON (promoted).

Outs: Nil.

Unavailable: Nil.

BLUFFER’S GUIDE

Melbourne Victory go into this game on the back of a damaging loss away to Perth Glory in the FFA Cup.

Not only did the match go to extra-time, further draining the visitors after a long trip to Western Australia, Victory also lost Archie Thompson to illness before kick-off, Besart Berisha (groin) and Matthieu Delpierre (hamstring) went off injured, while Adrian Leijer and Daniel Georgievski were both sent off for two bookable offences, ruling them out of Monday's match at AAMI Park.

While Berisha, Thompson and Delpierre have all been named in the match-day squad, it remains to be seen how many of the trio will feature against Wellington, who have never beaten Victory away from home but appear to have a decent chance of breaking that drought up against what is likely to be something of a cobbled together Big V backline.

OPTA DATA STATS

The hosts must be wary of getting caught on the counter. New arrivals Michael McGlinchey and Nathan Burns have struck up an instant and dangerous understanding, with the former Mariner playing quick through balls to release his team-mate in behind the Newcastle Jets' defence several times last weekend.

Indeed, Ernie Merrick's men demonstrated just how comfortable they are without the ball, ending that home win with only 39.2 percent of possession and having played 200 passes fewer than their beaten opponents.

ROUTE TO GOAL

If Delpierre is ruled out, Muscat is likely to opt for a back four of Scott Galloway, Leigh Broxham, Mark Milligan and Dylan Murnane. Milligan has spent plenty of time earlier in his career at the back and Broxham has proven adept at filling in there.

But the sight of two makeshift centre-backs lining up against them is sure to give hope to the Phoenix forwards.

At the other end, it will be business as usual if Berisha and Thompson are both passed fit to play.

If either or both is missing, expect Fahid Ben Khalfallah or Connor Pain to start down the left and Jesse Makarounas to deputise at centre-forward.

 If the two big guns are indeed missing, the performance of Kosta Barbarouses and Guilherme Finkler, both in good form so far this season, will be more important than ever.

WHO’S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?

McGlinchey's protracted move from the Mariners to the Phoenix made all the headlines during pre-season and while he's certainly proved to be a tremendous acquisition, another new recruit has also excelled.

 Burns, a seven-cap Socceroo, showed what he can do during a loan spell at the Jets in the first half of last term and is turning it on again in New Zealand, with three goals in three appearances.

He should have become the first Phoenix player to score a hat-trick but dwelled in possession when clean through on Mark Birighitti last Sunday. Will the 26-year-old hit the back of the net again at AAMI Park?

FORM LINES

Victory opened their season with a thumping 4-1 win at home to Western Sydney, followed by a 1-1 draw away to Adelaide and a come-from-behind 5-2 derby triumph against Melbourne City. In mid-week they went down 4-2 in extra-time of the Westfield FFA Cup quarter-final away to Perth Glory.

Phoenix lost 2-1 at home to Perth Glory in the Round 1, but responded by beating the Mariners 2-1 on the road, before dispatching Newcastle Jets 4-1 in Wellington.

DID YOU KNOW?

In 11 Hyundai A-League matches against Victory away from home, Wellington have not only never won, they've only scored seven times, and been held goalless on six occasions. Will that change under former Big V coach Ernie Merrick on Monday night?

PREDICTION

Result: Melbourne Victory 2-2 Wellington Phoenix

With Victory's defence weakened and the Phoenix firing early in  Season 2014-15, we don't expect the home side to keep a clean sheet.

But by the same token, Wellington aren't watertight at the back either and the home team will remain a potent attacking threat regardless of who plays. If Berisha is ruled out and Rashid Mahazi can't help Carl Valeri win the midfield battle, the visitors could finally break their duck.