Stats Preview: Why all signs point against another 6-1 in the Big Blue
Sydney FC are riding high in the Hyundai A-League compared to the stuttering Melbourne Victory but all signals point away from another Big Blue mauling on Sunday.
The Sky Blues romped past the Victory 6-1 in the 2018/19 Semi Final the last time these fierce rivals met at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium in May 2019.
Victory return to the scene of the crime with only one win from their first five under new coach Marco Kurz, while Sydney FC have taken maximum points three times out of four in this campaign.
In fact, Steve Corica’s side are scorching hot at home, having won 11 of their past 13 on their turf, including three in a row in Kogarah.
Sky Blue has topped Navy in six of the past eight Harbour City-based Big Blues but here’s the key stat which suggests the battle with be closer than that infamous Semi-Final horror show.
Sydney FC may have all of the momentum but they are not taking their chances like they were in the Finals Series six months ago.
MATCH PREVIEW: Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory
READ MORE: The Big Blue conundrum Barbarouses has to navigate
The Sky Blues are still creating. They have generated a competition-high 15 clear-cut chances in 2019/20, according our stats provider Opta, but they have taken only four of them.
Star marksman Adam Le Fondre is leading the Hyundai A-League for shots on target inside the opposition’s area, with seven, but he has converted less than 50% of those (three).
Corica was forced to rely on defender Ryan McGowan to grab the decider in the 3-2 win against Adelaide, while unlikely scorers Brandon O’Neill and Rhyan Grant got the goals in the 2-1 win against Wellington Phoenix.
Milos Ninkovic and Kosta Barbarouses finally got in on the act in the 4-1 rout against Newcastle Jets, but Victory will look to shut the Champions’ front-line back down in Sunday’s Big Blue.
Much of Kurz’s hopes rely on talisman and captain Ola Toivonen, who has been involved in each of Victory’s last eight goals.
The Swedish star has scored five of those, but only gets the credit for two assists, rather than three. Andrew Nabbout lost and regained possession before hitting the winner against Brisbane Roar in Round 3, although Toivonen did provide the defence-splitting pass.
Jets aim to avoid their fate from five years ago
Newcastle Jets head into their first ever meeting with Western United knowing the last time they failed to seal a win in their first five matches was half a decade ago.
That fateful season, 2014/15, Phil Stubbins’ Jets went 10 games before claiming a drought-breaking triumph. They only won three contests in a wooden-spoon campaign.
Ernie Merrick will be keen to avoid that sort of ignominy and get on the board at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday but the men from the Hunter will need to break down a resolute Western United.
Mark Rudan’s men know how to dig in. The hosts have recorded a league-high 61 tackles this season, while the Jets have only made a 10th-best 36, albeit in one fewer game than the Victorians.
That said, playing one fewer game has not stopped Newcastle being called offside more than any other team in the Hyundai A-League, with nine.
Set plays could be key for the visitors. Dimitri Petratos has created the joint highest chances from dead balls in the competition, with eight.
The Green and Black will look towards Alessandro Diamanti to provide a spark. The Italian leads the league in shots on target from outside the box, with eight. The Jets’ highest in that category is Petratos with two.
Thirteen-year drought hangs over toothless Roar
Another side seeking to avoid an unwanted record is Robbie Fowler’s Brisbane Roar.
The Queenslanders go in search of their first goal in four games when they host table-toppers Melbourne City at Dolphin Stadium, Redcliffe.
Only once before have the Roar blanked four times in a row, way back in November 2006.
On the flip side, City are looking to extend their best ever Hyundai A-League start of four wins and a draw from their five games.
Much of their success can be bestowed on Erick Mombaert’s Pep Guardiola-inspired pressing approach, which has seen City win possession high up the pitch more than any other team in the competition, stealing the ball 38 times in the final third.
City will turn to Craig Noone to bring the threat. The Englishman has created the second-most scoring chances in the league this season, with 14. The only player with more is Roar’s Jay O’Shea, with 17, who will needs some additional help to snap Brisbane’s goalless streak.
McGree visits his favourite opposition
Riley McGree is arguably the form player in the Hyundai A-League and the Adelaide United whiz kid meets the team he enjoys playing against more than any other in Round 6.
Central Coast host the Reds to kick off Round 6 on Saturday and Alen Stajcic’s men will need to stop McGree, who has four goals and two assists in his career against the Mariners.
Central Coast Stadium has become a fortress but it’s controlled by the South Australians, who have won five straight in Gosford.
A change in fortunes for the Mariners would reclaim the castle grounds. They have not strung together a run of three unbeaten matches at home since October 2015.
How the match is decided may come down to a mistake. These two teams top the charts in the category of 'errors leading to shots' with three apiece in 2019/20.