The race for the Premiership is hotting up and Saturday night’s top-of-the-table clash between Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory could go a long way to deciding if one of these two sides will finish in top spot and the trophy.
They played out a thrilling 3-3 draw the last time they met and this clash at AAMI Park. We look ahead to three crucial match-ups which will play a major role in determining which who comes out on top in what should be another Hyundai A-League classic.
Victory defender Matthieu Delpierre v Glory star Andy Keogh
After setting the Hyundai A-League alight in the early months of the season, Irishman Keogh has scored just once in the last six matches which constitutes a drought for the prolific hit-man.
That goal was in the last meeting with Victory and something tells me Keogh is ready to explode back to his best form. While he didn’t score in last weekend’s draw with Brisbane Roar, there were signs he was getting back to his explosiveness and intensity, especially around the box.
Keogh is very much the barometer for this Glory side and when he is throwing himself about with and without the ball, they are a much more formidable outfit.
With top spot on the line in this one there is extra motivation for the 28-year-old to get his scoring boots back on as he chases down Marc Janko and Nathan Burns for the Hyundai A-League’s golden-boot.
The man trying to stop Keogh this week is likely to be returning French defender Delpierre. After Adrian Leijer’s move to China was completed this week – and given Victory’s defensive struggles in recent weeks – Delpierre is a strong chance to come into the starting side after a successful comeback from injury last weekend.
Delpierre’s experience and physical presence will be vital in shutting down Keogh and there’s no doubt Victory have a far more formidable look about them with him in the lineup.
Neither player has a habit of shirking a challenge so it would be no surprise if it’s an extremely physical battle between the pair.
Victory playmaker Gui Finkler v Glory midfielder Rostyn Griffiths
This intriguing match-up is a real contrast of styles.
Finkler has the silky samba skills which are pleasing to the eye and so crucial to Victory’s fortunes.
On the other hand the powerful Griffiths is a vital link between defence and the midfield as well as protecting his back four.
It’s a role he has performed exceptionally for his boss this season and you can bet whenever Finkler gets the ball on Saturday night, Griffiths won’t be far away.
Finkler has a great ability to find those pockets of space in between the lines and which makes him tricky to pick up and if he does get too much time you can bet he will pick out a killer pass for the likes of Berisha, Barbarouses and Ben Khalfallah.
While Griffiths’ ability to stop Finkler and snuff out Victory’s attack will be his main role at AAMI Park, he’s also dangerous in the opposition box at set pieces.
He scored in Glory’s late fightback to snatch a 3-3 draw the last time these two sides met and given Victory’s defensive struggles of late – especially from dead-ball situations – Griffiths will be a target for the visitors in the box.
In a clash with so many pivotal head-to-head battles, this could be the most important in deciding the outcome.
Victory winger Kosta Barbarouses v Glory defender Scott Jamieson
The Kiwi international flyer is scoring regularly and has been giving left-backs around the competition torrid times with his energy and lightning speed.
He’s always had match-winning traits in his locker but under coach Muscat Barbarouses has added consistency to his dynamic game.
Quite simply when he’s “on”, there’s not many defenders who can keep him quiet.
If there’s one player this season you think that could shackle Barbarouses in his current form its Glory’s Jamieson.
Given he missed the majority of last season with an Achilles injury – an ailment that can be hard to come back from - the 26-year-old hasn’t missed a beat.Jamieson is providing great balance to Glory’s side and his ability to overlap his winger and get forward will ensure Barbarouses has to do plenty of defensive work as well.
Who'll pin who back and win this crucial battle? Can't wait to find out.