Melbourne Victory versus Sydney FC this Thursday January 26 shapes as the game of the season so far. Here is the key information you need to know ahead of this hugely anticipated Big Blue at Etihad.
Melbourne Victory (2nd)
Sydney FC (1st)
Melbourne Victory (32pts)
Sydney FC (40pts)
Why is this such a big game?
Sydney FC, if they win, could stretch their lead at the top to 11 points with ten rounds left. Given Graham Arnold’s side has yet to lose a single match this season, it’s hard to see them losing at least four matches over the last 10 games to relinquish the Premiership. But a Victory win would close the gap to just five points and put the Sky Blues under pressure heading into a tough month which also includes away games against Brisbane Roar, Melbourne City and also a Sydney Derby (Feb 18).
Australia Day history
In four Big Blues on January 26, Melbourne Victory has won two, with Sydney FC winning one (a 5-0 drubbing in 2014) and one draw.
Rivalry stokes huge interest
Given the historical animosity between the two clubs (and cities) going back to 2005 when the league kicked off, a couple of famous grand final clashes, the controversy (Carney’s alleged handball goal?) in the earlier meeting this season and with so much at stake, this will be riveting viewing.
What they are saying
Victory boss Kevin Muscat
“I’ll never give up, it’s not in my nature. I’ll make sure I surround myself with people of a like mind to myself. We’ve still got to play Sydney twice…we won’t need any motivation this week. Prior to these two games [losses against Wellington and Perth] we’d won six on the bounce, so I’m certainly not going to panic.”
Sydney FC keeper Danny Vukovic
“Victory will be hungry to win the game — their last couple of results haven’t been the greatest, but they’ll come at us almost irrespective of the league table. They’ll be hungry because they’re playing us, and it’s always a big game, a big rivalry. I experienced the atmosphere at Etihad Stadium last year on Australia Day and it was amazing. Hopefully a lot of our fans will travel, because I know they’re hugely excited by the prospect of this game."
One of Victory’s key attacking outlets, with 10 goals and seven assists for the campaign. Frightening considering the "Kiwi Messi" still thinks he’s nowhere near where he wants to be. His battle with in-form Michael Zullo on Victory’s right-flank will be massive.
"Bes" just keeps on scoring (leading the golden boot race by two with 13 for the season) and he just loves playing against the Sky Blues. The big occasion is sure to bring out Berisha’s best.
Is there a better player in the Hyundai A-League right now? The classy Serbian has been so important for the Sky Blues this season, so difficult to handle especially when he finds those pockets of space outside the box. His form has some suggesting Sydney should make "Ninko" a marquee for next season. On this form, it’s hard to argue.
The Sky Blues skipper has led by example in the 2016/17 Season. Fiery, in-your-face and no shortage of quality. With nine goals, he’s the highest scoring Australian player in the competition and his pace, movement and work-rate is crucial to Sydney’s success. And a pretty impressive beard, too!