Preview: Perth Glory v Melbourne Victory
It's last versus first but this is shaping as the biggest match of the season for the Perth Glory.
Date: Saturday December 6 Kick-off: 6:00pm local (8:00 pm AEDT) Venue: Members Equity Stadium TV and Radio:
Head-to-head 10 Hyundai A-League meetings: Perth - 2 wins, Melbourne - 4 wins, Draws - 4.
Previous meeting Melbourne 4, Perth 0, Telstra Dome, Round 7, September 2008
Past Five Games Perth Glory: Round 9: Adelaide Utd 2, Perth Glory 1, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 10: Perth Glory 2, Wellington Phoenix 0, Members Equity Stadium Round 11: Perth Glory 2, Newcastle Jets 2, Members Equity Stadium Round 12: Queensland Roar 4, Perth Glory 1, Suncorp Stadium Round 13: Perth Glory 2, Central Coast Mariners 2, Members Equity Stadium
Melbourne Victory: Round 9: Melbourne Victory 0, Sydney FC 2, Telstra Dome Round 10: Adelaide United 2, Melbourne Victory 3, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 11: Queensland Roar 0, Melbourne Victory 1, Suncorp Stadium Round 12: Melbourne 2, Central Coast Mariners 1, Telstra Dome Round 13: Wellington Phoenix 2, Melbourne Victory 1, Westpac Stadium
Analysis It's last versus first but this is shaping as the biggest match of the season for the Perth Glory. The Western Australians desperately need a win to keep pace with the top four but they're coming up against the table-topping Melbourne Victory on the rebound.
Fortunately for Perth, the Victory are on the second leg of a marathon two-week road trip where they played in Wellington one week before fronting up in Perth the next. It's been a tough few weeks for Ernie Merrick's men as this will be their fourth away trip in five matches and it might just be starting to show as the Victorians appeared particularly lacklustre in last week's 2-1 loss to the Phoenix.
The bad news for Perth, though, is the Victory have a full list of players to choose from, as midfielder Evan Berger returns to the squad after suffering a hamstring strain. Berger looked in terrific touch as he ran rings around the Glory's midfield during the Pre-season cup hit out at Members Equity Stadium in July, but Victory coach Ernie Merrick may opt to be more cautious with the youngster in this match, potentially bringing him on as a substitute for Grant Brebner, who's looked out of sorts the last two matches and been substituted at half-time on both occasions.
On paper there seems a significant gulf in class between the two sides. Perth's defence has been strengthened by the inclusion of centre back David Tarka and left back Naum Sekulovski to the squad while left midfielder Scott Bulloch has also been promoted from the National Youth League. But the club will be without Brazilian midfielder Amaral (knee) and star defender Harden Foxe (leg) for one more match and this could ultimately prove particularly costly for the Western Australians.
Foxe's inclusion for this match would be an enormous boost, as the Glory's leaky defence, which conceded another disastrous injury-time equaliser against the Mariners last weekend, could certainly use his expert reading of the play as it attempts to counter the Victory's Archie Thompson, Danny Allsopp and Ney Fabiano.
But at least the Glory will have its best structure in place as Sekulovski will presumably slot in at left back, allowing Dino Djulbic to move across to the central defensive position to partner Nikolai Topor-Stanley. The tall combination of Djulbic and Topor-Stanley has been most effective when teams have been bombing long balls into the box, but whether it can hold out against a Victory side that creates openings through some clever passing, remains to be seen.
The defensive re-structure allows veteran Jamie Harnwell to move forward once again to partner the in-form Nikita Rukavytsya in attack. The super partnership between the two players, ably supported by an attacking midfield, will be the Glory's key attacking weapon in this encounter. Rukavytsya, the second highest scorer in the competition with eight goals has proven he has the pace to beat most defences. But he's coming up against the meanest defender of them all in Kevin Muscat, while Rody Vargas has the awareness to counter the pair's intelligent runs into the box.
A lot will ride on this defensive battle as the Glory, once they have momentum going are very difficult to beat at home and played Central Coast off the park for large stretches of last weekend's match. But if the Victory can strike first and expose Perth's defence, then the Melbourne side should do enough to remain at the top of the table for another week.
Perth Glory Squad. 30.Tando VELAPHI (gk), 1.Jason PETKOVIC (gk), 2.Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 3.David TARKA, 4.Jamie COYNE (c), 5.Jamie HARNWELL, 6.Dino DJULBIC, 7.Nick RIZZO, 9.Adrian TRINIDAD, 11.Scott BULLOCH, 13.Nikita RUKAVYTSYA, 14.Eugene DADI, 16.Adriano PELLEGRINO, 17.James DOWNEY, 19.Naum SEKULOVSKI, 21.Mark LEE, 22.Wayne SRHOJ, 25.Marc ANTHONY.
* three to be omitted.
In. 1.Jason PETKOVIC (promoted), 3.David TARKA (promoted), 11.Scott BULLOCH (promoted), 19.Naum SEKULOVSKI (return from injury).
Out. 20.Frank JURIC (omitted).
Unavailable. Josip MAGDIC (ankle - season), James ROBINSON (abdomen - 4 weeks), Hayden FOXE (leg - 1 week), AMARAL (knee - 1 week).
Melbourne Victory Squad. 1.Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (Captain), 3.Michael THWAITE, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 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, 19.Evan BERGER, 20.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 22.Nick WARD.
*One to be omitted.
In. Evan BERGER (return from injury).