Preview: Perth Glory v Melbourne Victory
Date: Friday August 28, Kick-off: 8:00pm AWST, 10:00pm AEST Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick has been trying to assume the underdog tag all week in an effort to catch the Perth Glory off guard.
Date: Friday August 28 Kick-off: 8:00pm AWST, 10:00pm AEST Venue: ME Bank Stadium TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 3. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is 6PR 882 AM (Perth). To purchase tickets visit www.ticketmaster.com.au
Head-to-head 12 Hyundai A-League meetings: Wins: Perth 4, Melbourne 4, Draws 4
Previous meeting Perth Glory 3, Melbourne Victory 2, ME Bank Stadium, Round 19, January 2009
Season so far: Perth Glory: Round 1: Adelaide United 1, Perth Glory 0, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 2: Wellington Phoenix 2, Perth Glory 1, Westpac Stadium Round 3: Perth Glory 2, Newcastle Jets 0, ME Bank Stadium
Melbourne Victory: Round 1: Melbourne Victory 0, Central Coast Mariners 2, Etihad Stadium Round 2: Melbourne Victory 3, Brisbane Roar 3, Etihad Stadium Round 3: North Queensland Fury 0, Melbourne Victory 1, Dairy Farmers Stadium
Analysis: Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick has been trying to assume the underdog tag all week in an effort to catch the Perth Glory off guard.
Merrick's defence has admittedly been hit hard this season by injury. It will be missing Kevin Muscat (hamstring) and Evan Berger (groin) for the next two matches, while Matthew Kemp is again unavailable as he stays in Melbourne with his wife, who's due to give birth.
But Melbourne's defence is a versatile beast and looks capable of covering those losses. Merrick was particularly impressed with Thai international Surat Sukha at right back in last week's 1-0 win over the Fury, while midfielder Leigh Broxham will likely cover Berger's absence on the left. In central defence, the Victory have been boosted tremendously by Adrian Leijer's return to the fold.
The former Fulham man literally jumped off the plane from London and into the side last weekend, and it will be interesting to see how he follows up that performance against a Glory side that is looking to create more chances. Leijer was only on the park for five minutes when Fulham routed the Glory at ME Bank Stadium 5-0 in July, but a cracking cross-field pass allowed Andranik Teymourian to score the fifth goal and Leijer's Premiership class and leadership could play a pivotal role in this clash.
While Merrick appears to have shored up his defence, it's the midfield battle that could prove the most defining. Both sides adopt different styles through the middle, with Melbourne looking to drive through the centre and Perth preferring a flanks-oriented game. The key man for the Victory in the middle will be the highly skilled Billy Celeski. If Celeski can avoid being taken wide, then Melbourne should be able to take the ball through there to the lurking Carlos Hernandez, in the hole behind classy strikers Archie Thompson and Danny Allsopp.
Thompson got off the mark against the Fury and will be looking to add to his tally, while Allsopp comes to Perth under something of an injury cloud after suffering a corked thigh.
The Victory strikers, though, are coming up against a settled Glory defence that has plenty of experience and shouldn't allow the opposition to get in behind them. Unlike last season when Perth's back four was pillaged by injury and suspension, conceding nine goals in the first three matches, this time around, the Glory have conceded just once from open play, with the two other goals coming from a penalty and a free kick.
Conceding from set pieces remains something of a danger for the Glory that Melbourne could exploit, particularly with a dead ball specialist like Hernandez in its ranks, who's lethal within range.
Coach David Mitchell has indicated there won't be any changes from last week's starting line-up that beat Newcastle 2-0. Although the midfield and strikers haven't gelled quite as effectively as Perth's defence, there's still plenty of class there. The Glory will once again look to Adriano Pellegrino and Victor Sikora, on the right and left respectively, to drive their attacks, while Jacob Burns and Wayne Srhoj fight it out with Celeski and co through the middle.
As a result, this match may not be the free-scoring affairs these sides played out in the past and could be more of a midfield arm wrestle. But Mitchell does have a couple of aces up his sleeve on the bench, as Brazilian midfielder Amaral looks almost certain to be a substitute after he was cleared for a nine-match guest stint with the Glory on Wednesday night. Todd Howarth may be the one to drop from the squad for Amaral, after suffering a minor calf injury, while big striker Eugene Dadi could also play off the bench for Matthew Mayora, after scoring four times against Melbourne last year.
Perth Glory Squad: 1.Tando VELAPHI (gk), 4.Andy TODD, 6.Chris COYNE, 7.Jacob BURNS (c), 8.Victor SIKORA, 10.Wayne SRHOJ, 11.Branko JELIC, 12.Scott NEVILLE, 13.Scott BULLOCH, 14.Eugene DADI, 16.Adriano PELLEGRINO, 17.Todd HOWARTH, 19.Naum SEKULOVSKI, 20.Aleks VRTESKI (gk), 21.Mile STERJOVSKI, 23.Andrija JUKIC, 24.Matthew MAYORA
* two to be omitted*
In: 13.Scott BULLOCH (return from injury), 14.Eugene DADI (promoted)
Unavailable: Jamie COYNE (knee - 2 weeks), Jimmy DOWNEY (knee - 4 weeks), Jamie HARNWELL (Calf - 1 week), Anthony SKORICH (hip - 5 weeks)
Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 5.Surat SUKHA, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 8.Grant BREBNER, 9.Danny ALLSOPP, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS (c), 14.Billy CELESKI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Matthew FOSCHINI, 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 22.Nick WARD, 23.Adrian LEIJER
In: Matthew FOSCHINI (promoted)
Out: Evan BERGER (groin, 2 weeks)
Unavailable: Kevin MUSCAT (hamstring, 2 weeks)