Preview: Perth Glory v North Queensland Fury
This is effectively a clash between top and bottom on the A-League table, but incredibly it's the Perth Glory on top this time instead of the other way around.
Date: Saturday October 3 Kick-off: 3:30pm AWST, 5:30pm AEST Venue: ME Bank Stadium TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 1. A-League club broadcast partner is 6PR 882AM (Perth). To purchase tickets visit www.ticketmaster.com.au
Head-to-head Never played
Last five rounds: Perth Glory: Round 4: Perth Glory 2, Melbourne Victory 1, ME Bank Stadium Round 5: Central Coast Mariners 2, Perth Glory 1, Canberra Stadium Round 6: Perth Glory 2, Gold Coast United, ME Bank Stadium Round 7: Brisbane Roar 2, Perth Glory 4, Suncorp Stadium Round 8: Newcastle Jets 0, Perth Glory 1, EnergyAustralia Stadium
North Queensland: Round 4: Adelaide United 3, North Queensland 3, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 5: North Queensland Fury 1, Brisbane Roar 1, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 6: Sydney FC 0, North Queensland 0, SFS Round 7: Wellington 1, North Queensland 1, Westpac Stadium Round 8: North Queensland 0, Adelaide United 2, Dairy Farmers Stadium
Analysis: This is effectively a clash between top and bottom on the A-League table, but incredibly it's the Perth Glory on top this time instead of the other way around.
This time last year, the Glory could only dream of second position on goal difference but having achieved the feat through two somewhat fortunate away wins in a row, the club has to press home the advantage over its next two home fixtures, starting with North Queensland.
Glory coach Dave Mitchell will be the first to tell anyone the club staged a late heist last weekend against the Jets. Suffering a disrupted preparation due to flights cancelled by a dust storm, Perth appeared lethargic for most of the clash until Victor Sikora threaded the eye of the needle, releasing Mile Sterjovski through on goal.
The marquee man's converted penalty after being brought down by Ben Kennedy may have given Perth the points, but one imagines Mitchell would have been less than impressed and the team will have endured a tough week on the track preparing for this weekend.
Mitchell, though, has opted to stick with most of that winning side in the knowledge it can play, and has played, substantially better. Striker Eugene Dadi has been promoted after scoring in the National Youth League last Friday night and could be in with a real chance of selection after not playing since the Round 1 loss to Adelaide.
The coach will probably persist with using Sterjovski as a striker, interchanging with Sikora on the left flank throughout the game, but may opt to use Dadi off the bench during the second half as the big Frenchman has a strong aerial presence and a quality shot in close that could really exploit a tiring North Queensland defence, particularly when playing in tandem with Branko Jelic.
Fury coach Ian Ferguson, meanwhile, may have been lamenting his side's inability to score against Adelaide last weekend, but his real worry is probably down the back as he looks to try and contain the likes of Jelic, Dadi, Sterjovski and shot-happy Glory midfielders like Wayne Srhoj and Adriano Pellegrino.
The Fury have really struggled to field a settled defence in their first campaign after losing Jacob Timpano during the pre-season, while Karl Dodd was a late omission last week after suffering a knee injury that will keep him out for five matches.
Dodd's absence, along with the withdrawals of midfielders Robbie Middleby and Ufuk Talay - both with hamstring complaints - certainly didn't help North Queensland's cause in its clash with Adelaide last weekend.
To the Fury's credit, despite the absentees, they attacked the contest, with striker Daniel McBreen's incredible work-rate really impressing. McBreen set up chance after chance through his hard running throughout, but sadly his finishing skills can't quite match his effort, although he was denied repeatedly by a blinding Eugene Galekovic performance.
Instead, as the Fury tired, it was Adelaide that took the initiative, Lucas Pantelis firing home from 20 metres before Matthew Leckie's brilliant individual goal sealed the 2-0 result.
Scott Wilson will once again take Dodd's position while Middleby and Talay have both been included in this squad. Whether they both play, remains to be seen.
Last week, youngster Jack Hingert did an admirable job deputising for Middleby, but the inclusion of Hingert in this squad once again suggests the vice captain's problem hamstring may need another week.
Talay's position was taken by Rostyn Griffiths but Griffiths has been omitted from this squad and maybe Talay will finally make his return, adding a cool head to the midfield.
Griffith's omission is something of a surprise, however, after an enterprising 50 minutes on the park last week, with only livewire left winger Fred Agius promoted to a squad that will be cut by one before kick-off.
The Glory are unbeaten at home this season from three matches and have enjoyed a sensational record at ME Bank Stadium, having lost just two of the last 13 games. But, despite adding some defensive steel in Andy Todd and Chris Coyne, the club remains somewhat vulnerable at the back as a little too much defending is left to too few.
Such defensive frailties could be pounced on by a striker of Robbie Fowler's quality or by former Glory man James Robinson, but whether North Queensland can avoid conceding itself is the big question.
Perth Glory Squad: 1.Tando VELAPHI (gk), 3.Jamie COYNE, 4.Andy TODD, 6.Chris COYNE, 7.Jacob BURNS (c), 8.Victor SIKORA, 10.Wayne SRHOJ, 11.Branko JELIC, 12.Scott NEVILLE, 14.Eugene DADI, 16.Adriano PELLEGRINO, 17.Todd HOWARTH, 19.Naum SEKULOVSKI, 20.Aleks VRTESKI (gk), 21.Mile STERJOVSKI, 23.Andrija JUKIC
*one to be omitted*
In: Eugene DADI (promoted)
Unavailable: Jamie HARNWELL (knee - 8 weeks), Anthony SKORICH (foot - 2 weeks), AMARAL (thigh - 2 weeks)
North Queensland Fury squad 1.Paul HENDERSON (gk), 2.Robbie MIDDLEBY, 3.Chris TADROSSE, 4.Scott WILSON, 6.Ufuk TALAY, 7.Jason SPAGNUOLO, 8.Shane STEFANUTTO, 9.Robbie FOWLER (c), 12.Jack HINGERT, 14.Chris GROSSMAN, 15.Fred AGIUS, 18.James ROBINSON, 19.Daniel MCBREEN, 20.Justin PASFIELD (gk) , 21.John TAMBOURAS. 24. Dyron DAAL
*one to be omitted*
In: Fred AGIUS (promoted)
Out: Jeremy Brockie (not selected), David WILLIAMS (not selected), Paul KOHLER (not selected), Osama MALIK (not selected), Rostyn Griffiths (not selected)
Unavailable: Jacob Timpano (hamstring - indefinite), Karl DODD (Knee -5 weeks)