Two of the Hyundai A-League’s in-form and most successful clubs go head-to-head in a blockbuster clash at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
Defending champions Brisbane Roar FC host many people’s champions-elect Melbourne Victory, in a vital match for both side’s for differing reasons.
There is plenty of history between these two fierce rivals and the added spice of Besart Berisha’s return to Suncorp make this a fixture not to be missed.
We look at the pivotal match-ups right around the park that are likely to determine the outcome in a thrilling contest to open Round 18 of the competition, a match that also celebrates Archie Thompson's 200th Hyundai A-League game for Victory.
Victory's Besart Berisha v Roar's James Donachie
He was once an adored hero of Brisbane who held aloft the Grand Final trophy on this turf just nine months ago. He cried as he paid tribute to the fans on that special day.
Berisha now returns to Suncorp for the first time in Victory Blue on Friday night.
Having scored so many important goals and helping the club to two championships it will be interesting to see what type of reception the fiery Albanian receives from Roar fans.
They will certainly hope he doesn’t assist in stopping their three-game winning run by scoring a goal and one of the men trying to prevent that from happening is Donachie.
The 21-year-old from Brisbane has overcome a shaky start to the season – scoring a couple of own goals – to become an integral member of Roar’s defence. He's an emerging leader in the Roar group.
But he has yet to come up against someone with the guile and sheer will to win as Berisha - though training with him would've helped.
It's the classic master v apprentice.
Victory's Fahid Ben Khalfallah v Roar's Jerome Polenz
This has all the makings of a cracking one-on-one battle.
Polenz has settled seamlessly back into life in the Hyundai A-League and it’s no surprise Roar’s winning streak has coincided with the German coming into the team. Quite simple, he is a winner.
There are not many left wingers in the competition who will say they have enjoyed their battles against Polenz.
But on the other side, Ben Khalfallah has arguably the buy of the season.
The Tunisian oozes class and has almost everything in his locker.
Tremendous close control and ball skill, he’s able to find space in tight areas with a jink or turn of speed and can score a goal from distance.
Ben Khalfallah was fairly subdued against Sydney FC on Saturday night but he rarely plays two quiet games in a row.
While it be the power and perseverance of Polenz that wins out or can Ben Khafallah’s nous and quality rise to the top?
Make sure you’re watching because it will be a titanic tussle.
Roar's Thomas Broich v Victory's Mark Milligan
Another match-up that will go a long way to deciding which side comes out on top.
These two may possess different qualities but are the real barometers of their team.
Broich’s season has been punctuated by injury but his return following the Asian Cup break has given the entire squad a lift.
While he probably hasn’t hit the same heights he did in winning the Johnny Warren Medal last season, his importance to Brisbane can’t be understated.
Of the seven goals Roar have scored since his return, the German has been involved in six of them – including winning two penalties against the Mariners last weekend.
Given a roaming role by coach Frans Thijssen, Broich is even harder to get a handle on but knowing Milligan he will take it upon himself to stifle Roar’s main man.
The Socceroos midfielder is a real driving force for Victory and leads by example, which is why he will want to set the standard by shackling Broich.
Having been eliminated by Roar last season at Suncorp Stadium – when Milligan was denied a late penalty – the visitors will be keen for some revenge and the skipper will lead the way to make that happen.