Melbourne Victory’s hopes of ending their Sydney FC hoodoo will be boosted with two key players set to return for Friday night’s blockbuster Big Blue at Allianz Stadium.
Winger Kosta Barbarouses and defender Rhys Williams both missed Sunday’s come-from-behind win over Wellington Phoenix through suspension.
But they’ll be straight back into Kevin Muscat’s squad for the trip north as Victory look to defeat the Sky Blues for the first time in almost two years.
It’s a horror record for the Big V, and one they’ll want to put right, especially if the sides are to meet in the Hyundai A-League Finals Series.
“It’s called the Big Blue for a reason and it is a huge game for both teams,” Williams said.
“It is a great time to play each other going into finals. We’ve played them twice already this year and I think we matched them, if not outplayed them for a lot of it. In the end, our lack of concentration cost us.
“I’ve enjoyed both games against them – even though we’ve lost. It’s great playing against the quality that they have. They can chop and change and whoever comes in knows their job.”
While Victory's recent history against Sydney FC isn’t good, Victory are in decent form in the Hyundai A-League, winning five of their last six games.
And prior to their 6-2 loss to Ulsan Hyundai just over a week ago, their form in the AFC Champions League had also been encouraging.
“All of the travel has galvanised us,” Muscat said.
“When your backs are against the wall and you don’t think anything is going for you, it does have a magical way of galvanising the group.”
And they’ll need to be at their best to stop the rampant Sky Blues, who have overcome their ‘mini form slump’ by winning their last three in a row in the Hyundai A-League.
It will be a party atmosphere at Allianz Stadium, with Sydney FC to receive the Premiers’ Plate after the match for finishing the regular season on top of the ladder.
The two clubs will also play for the annual beyondblue Cup, which is aimed at showing people the positive effects of talking about their mental health and seeking support.
“The beyondblue Cup is always a fantastic occasion between the Hyundai A-League’s two biggest clubs. It’s a great opportunity to encourage our community to start a conversation about mental health,” Sydney FC defender Wilkinson said.
“It’s ok to speak up and seek support for your mental health. Talk to a family member, friend, GP or mental health professional.
“Talking about mental health is the game changer.”