Victory v Glory: Who’ll win the blockbuster?

Melbourne-based Goal.com editor Iain Strachan and www.a-league.com.au journo John Greco offer their thoughts ahead of the big one: one v two in the Hyundai A-League when Victory host Glory on Saturday.

Melbourne Victory - Iain Strachan

“If someone tallied up the amount of times Scott Galloway, Jason Geria or Daniel Georgievski have been caught up field, leading to a goal being conceded, it would make very interesting reading indeed.”

Strengths

Victory's 3-2 loss at home to Wellington on Sunday was a microcosm of the Big V's season. Good going forward, bad at the back.

The men in navy blue and white were all over Phoenix for parts of the first half and early in the second.

They took a deserved lead through Scott Galloway and the second goal, scored by Kosta Barbarouses after a neat exchange of passes and set up by Carl Valeri's exquisite through-ball, was a joy to behold.

Valeri and Milligan shield the defence and supply the forwards with the ammunition to trouble the opposition.

Guilherme Finkler is in excellent form, Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Barbarouses are among the best wide players in the competition and although he missed a penalty, Besart Berisha is also a match for any striker in the competition.

Weaknesses

Victory were undone after the break against Wellington by what has become a worrying Achilles heel in recent weeks - defensive mistakes.

It's somewhat surprising to note Victory have the joint third-best defence in the league, level on 24 goals conceded with their opponents this weekend.

Adelaide lead the way with 21, followed by Wellington on 23. 

Contrast that respectable overall record with the last four matches. Since January 25 Victory have conceded three goals on three separate occasions, away to Perth and Sydney FC and at home to Wellington. 

Does Kevin Muscat's 4-2-4 formation (because, let's face it, Finkler, Berisha, Barbarouses and Ben Khalfallah don't do much tracking back), leave the two holding players and the defence too exposed? 

Aggressive fullbacks are also a prerequisite of an attacking game-plan, but if someone tallied up the amount of times Scott Galloway, Jason Geria or Daniel Georgievski have been caught up field, leading to a goal being conceded, it would make very interesting reading indeed.

What has to go right

Matthieu Delpierre made his first appearance since October when he came on for Milligan on Sunday. It remains to be seen if Kevin Muscat thinks the veteran centre-back is ready to start in such an important game. 

The alternative is to continue to pair makeshift defender Leigh Broxham, who will concede both height and strength to Andy Keogh, with Nick Ansell, who is still learning and was culpable for Wellington's third. 

Whoever Muscat picks at the back, the Victory defence need to cut out mistakes from open play and tighten up on set-pieces. 

Prediction

I’m going for a entertaining draw in this one. Both sides have plenty to play for, with Victory looking to respond to a frustrating home loss and the Glory keen to get back to winning ways. The two defences are far from infallible and there's plenty of attacking talent on offer. 

Over to you Grecs...

Perth Glory - John Greco

“The creativity and set pieces of Nebojsa Marinkovic has been a highlight and his battle with Victory's Carl Valeri will be worth the cost of admission alone.”

Strengths

Glory has built their success so far this season on their defensive structure and superb organisation. They have the third best defence in the league with a goalkeeper in Danny Vukovic at the top of his game (and potentially pushing for that third keeper spot in the Socceroos). 

Skipper Michael Thwaite and Dino Djulbic have formed a solid central-defensive partnership, while Rostyn Griffiths and Ruben Zadkovich have provided some extra steel in the middle of the park.

It's all these ingredients which have made them hard to break down and hard to beat. 

Fullbacks Josh Risdon and Scott Jamieson have perhaps been a little underrated but keep a good defensive shape and have the energy and fitness to get forward and add to the sides attacking options. 

While striker Andy Keogh rightly gets a lot of the attention for his goals, the creativity and set pieces of Nebojsa Marinkovic has been a highlight and his battle with Victory's Carl Valeri will be worth the cost of admission alone.

Weaknesses

After a brilliant first three months of the season, Glory is going through a rut without a win in their last six.

And their struggles are most likely to be down to the fact they have become a bit more predictable as the season has gone on. 

Glory’s game plan hasn't altered since the start of the season. Basically what you see is what you get. While that style proved successful in the early parts of the campaign, teams have figured out how best to counter their play as well as finding ways to penetrate their defences. 

If you shut down Marinkovic and can stop the delivery to Keogh, it seems you can blunt them quite easily.

The return of Mitch Nichols after a lengthy lay-off with injury will help their cause but he is still getting back to full fitness, a process which has a few more weeks to go. 

What has to go right?

If Glory are to get a win in Melbourne and take a giant step towards claiming the Premiership, they must stop turning over possession in their own half and avoid leaving themselves open to Victory’s lethal transition. 

If they can remain compact and not allow the likes of Besart Berisha, Kosta Barbarouses and Fahid Ben Khalfallah space in behind, they give themselves a good shot at a win, especially against Victory’s suspect defence.

Prediction

Glory have already shown this season they have the recipe to beat Victory, with their last win in the A-League coming against Kevin Muscat's side in Geelong in December.

But a lot has changed since then and they won't be as confident heading across the Nullabor this time around.

Even with Victory’s defensive frailties, it's hard to see anything but a win for the home side to set up an even more enthralling battle for top spot.

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