Preview: Melbourne Victory v Western Sydney Wanderers

The Melbourne Victory will host the Western Sydney Wanderers in a rescheduled Round 19 match of the 2013-14 A-League season at AAMI Park on Tuesday January 14 at 7.30pm AEDT.

The Melbourne Victory will host the Western Sydney Wanderers in a rescheduled Round 19 match of the 2013-14 A-League season at AAMI Park on Tuesday January 14 at 7.30pm AEDT.

Head-to-head: Played: 5, Wins: Victory 1, Wanderers 3, Draws: 1

Previous encounter: Victory 1-1 Wanderers, December 28 2013

Form: Past five matches: Victory: DLDWW Wanderers: WLDWW

The Game: The Melbourne Victory desperately need to avoid a loss against Western Sydney or their chances of finishing in the top two could be all but over. Winless in their past three, Kevin Muscat's undermanned team may be boosted by the return of captain Mark Milligan (knee) and will certainly have the services of centre-back Adrian Leijer after his suspension. Mitch Nichols was hurt during their 1-1 draw at Newcastle. Gui Finkler's tremendous late free-kick salvaged a point for the Victory when the teams met late in 2013. Just how many changes Tony Popovic will make after his side's 1-0 win over Sydney FC on Saturday night remains to be seen. Mateo Poljak and Iacopo La Rocca were both hurt - the Croatian in the warm-up - in the derby victory. Popovic's line-ups are unpredictable, but expect the Wanderers to be set up with a clean sheet as their main focus.

The big issue: Victory - Just when will the Victory make a statement with another win against their fellow top-four rivals? In five matches against Brisbane, Central Coast or Western Sydney this season, the Victory have just one win. Last season, they managed just one in 10. Until they improve that dreadful record, it is hard to see Muscat's men being a serious title challenger or even making an impact in the finals. The Victory's attack has appeared threatening enough at times this season, but they are without a clean sheet in their past four outings.

Wanderers - Can they take a big opportunity and move nine points clear of the Victory? This is a huge chance for Popovic's men. A win for the Wanderers would push them well clear of the Victory, but Popovic is still unlikely to take too many risks with his starting line-up at AAMI Park. Shinji Ono may be left on the bench due to the short turnaround, but the Wanderers' defence is still strong enough to be able to keep the Victory out. If they do that and can pinch a goal on the counter-attack, Popovic will consider it a job well done.

The game breaker: James Troisi - With Nichols potentially on the sidelines due to injury, the A-League's top goalscorer will need to be at his best in the attacking third. Finkler is still easing his way back into action after a long-term injury and Troisi was unlucky not to score a late winner for the Victory against the Jets when his powerful shot was wonderfully saved by Mark Birighitti. He has scored seven goals this season and always looks a danger when on the ball.