A-League Grand Final preview: Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC

It's the match we've all been waiting for. Hyundai A-League Premiers Melbourne Victory hosting fierce rivals Sydney FC in a re-run of the dramatic 2010 Grand Final.

The Sky Blues claimed that one on penalties, with Kevin Muscat - now the Victory boss - missing his spot-kick. 

Will the Big V exorcise those demons at AAMI Park on Sunday? 

Fans of Australian football across the country and around the world will be glued to their television screens for 90 or perhaps even 120 minutes in what could be the best Grand Final yet.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

AAMI Park, Melbourne

Kick-Off: 4:00 PM local 

SQUADS

Melbourne Victory squad: 2. Jason GERIA, 4. Nick ANSELL, 5. Mark MILLIGAN (C), 6. Leigh BROXHAM, 7. Gui FINKLER, 8. Besart BERISHA, 9. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10. Archie THOMPSON, 11. Connor PAIN, 14. Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 15. Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 16. Rashid MAHAZI, 17. Matthieu DELPIERRE, 20. Lawrence THOMAS (GK), 21. Carl VALERI, 22. Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 24. Scott GALLOWAY, 40. Michael TURNBULL (GK)**two to be omitted**

Ins:  22. Jesse MAKAROUNAS (promoted), 24. Scott GALLOWAY (promoted)

Outs:  Nil

Unavailable: 1. Nathan COE (injured), 26. Jordan BROWN (injured)

Sydney FC squad: 1.Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 2.Seb RYALL, 5.Matt JURMAN, 6.Nikola PETKOVIC, 8.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 11.Bernie IBINI, 13.Christopher NAUMOFF, 14.Alex BROSQUE (c), 16.Alex GERSBACH, 17. Terry ANTONIS, 20.Vedran JANJETOVIC (gk), 21.Marc JANKO, 23.Rhyan GRANT, 25. Aaron CALVER, 26.Jacques FATY, 27.Mickael TAVARES, 34.Robert STAMBOLZIEV***two to be omitted***

Ins: 16.Alex GERSBACH (promoted), 25. Aaron CALVER (promoted)

Outs: None

Unavailable: 3.Sasa OGNENOVSKI (hip – indefinite), 7.Corey GAMEIRO (knee – indefinite), 19.Nick CARLE (knee – indefinite), 22.Ali ABBAS (knee – indefinite), 29. George BLACKWOOD (international duty)

Hashtag #ALeagueGF

BROADCAST COVERAGE

TV Broadcast: Live coverage on FOX SPORTS 505 from 3.00pm (AEST) and Sky Sport 3 (New Zealand).  Delayed coverage on SBS HD & SBS One from 4.00pm (AEST).

Radio Broadcast: 630AM ABC NewsRadio Sydney, 1026AM ABC NewsRadio Melbourne, Online & via the ABC Radio Mobile phone app.

Referee: Jarred Gillett

Assistant Referee 1: Matthew Cream

Assistant Referee 2: David Walsh

Fourth Official: Kris Griffiths-Jones

Fifth Official: George Lakrindis

BLUFFER'S GUIDE

PING. Silence. 

That's what happened when Melbourne Victory captain Kevin Muscat smacked the first penalty of the 2010 Grand Final shootout against the post at Eithad Stadium.

Victory fans have done their best to block the events of that day from their memory. Sydney supporters will never forget, nor do they want to. 

Marvin Angulo for the hosts and Shannon Cole for the visitors also failed to score and while Grant Brebner and Leigh Broxham beat Clint Bolton, Simon Colosimo, Hayden Foxe, Karol Kisel and Byun Sung-Hwan got the job done for the visitors.

It was a black day for the Big V, who also lost Archie Thompson to a serious knee injury just 16 minutes in, ruling him out of the FIFA World Cup Finals in South Africa.

The veteran forward, together with Broxham, will be representing the 2010 Big V vintage this weekend and must be keen for revenge over a Sydney outfit who still have Sebastian Ryall, Ivan Neceveski and Alex Brosque among their ranks, although the latter has been away in the intervening period, only re-entering the fold for this season.

Muscat has himself been on a roller-coaster since that painful miss, playing only one more season before moving into a back-room role and weathering the turbulent tenures of Mehmet Durakovic and Jim Magilton. 

The arrival of Ange Postecoglou as head coach in 2012 set Victory on the path to once again becoming an on-field powerhouse worthy of their off-field heavyweight status. The former captain inherited the top job when his mentor departed for the Socceroos, leaving Muscat to build on the foundation set down by the ex-Brisbane Roar championship winner.

With the Premiers' Plate already in the trophy cabinet, the match at AAMI Park this weekend is the culmination of years of hard work to get back to the top for the men in navy blue and white.

Their dream will go unfulfilled if the Sky Blues get their way though. Graham Arnold has performed a similar transformation at the Harbour City club but he's done so at express pace. 

Drawing a line under the indulgent days of Alessandro Del Piero's reign as a pampered international marquee, Sydney in 2014-15 have been a team crafted in the image of 'Arnie' himself - tough, combative and uncompromising, but with more than enough mischief and flair to keep supporters coming back for more.

Arnold and his back-room staff deserve enormous credit for overcoming the loss of four players, three of them likely starters, to season-ending injuries and still manage to finish in the top two. 

The mid-season capture of top imports Jacques Faty and Mickael Tavares have a lot to do with that achievement. 

Similarly to his title-winning tenure with the Central Coast Mariners, Arnold hasn't been afraid to throw in the kids when the time has been right, with Chris Naumoff the latest to repay his coach's faith in the semi-final triumph over Adelaide United last time out (but more of that later).

Put simply, we have two outstanding teams, who have thrilled us throughout the campaign, ready to vie for the ultimate prize on the biggest day of the domestic season. Both clubs would be worthy  Hyundai A-League Season 10 champions, but only one can walk away with the trophy. 

OPTA DATA KEY STATS

- Victory are unbeaten in five against Sydney (W1 D4) and have never lost to them in a finals match, excluding a shootout (W2 D2).

- Victory have won six of their last seven games, including each of the last four (L1).

- Sydney have won their last four games, and nine of the last 11 (L2).

- Sydney have scored 41 goals in their last 14 games, compared to just 15 in the 14 prior to that run.

- Victory have only failed to score in one of their last 17 games.

ROUTE TO GOAL

There are so many attacking options to choose from for both of these teams. Victory have a tried and tested front four of playmaker Guilherme Finkler, wingers Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Kosta Barbarouses and deadly centre-forward Besart Berisha, with Archie Thompson an elite option off the bench. 

Every team in the league knows all about the threat they pose. That hasn't helped them find a way to shut down this quintet of attacking talent. 

Melbourne City were the latest team to come unstuck at their hands on Friday night, Berisha, Barbarouses (spectacularly) and Thompson the men on target, with Finkler and Ben Khalfallah pulling the strings.

Sydney are by no means short of talent in the final third too. 

In Austria international captain Marc Janko they have the Golden Boot winner, with club captain and domestic marquee Alex Brosque and Socceroos forward Bernie Ibini, an A-League winner with Central Coast in 2012-13, either side of him. 

Milos Dimitrijevic and Terry Antonis, the latter likely to be on the bench on Sunday as he continues his comeback from a knee injury, are both capable of pulling opposition defences apart with their incisive passing, while youngster Naumoff demonstrated the threat he poses by providing an assist for the first goal and scoring the fourth in the win over Adelaide. 

Like Victory's Thompson, Sydney have their own veteran marksman to be held in reserve, with experienced centre-forward Shane Smeltz able to take over from the tiring Janko for the final third of matches. 

WHO'S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK

Melbourne Victory stalwart Archie Thompson caused a stir on Tuesday when he publicly called for the club to offer him a contract extension, threatening to play on for a rival Hyundai A-League club if a new deal isn't forthcoming. Victory supporters certainly want the fan favourite to stay on. Could the issue prove to be an unwanted distraction in the days leading up to such a big game? 

FORM LINES (last five games)

Melbourne Victory: WWWWL

Victory have won their last four matches, beating Melbourne City 3-0 in the semi-finals, Central Coast 3-1 at home to clinch the Premiers' Plate and Brisbane Roar in successive away matches, 1-0 and 2-1. Their last defeat was a surprise 1-0 loss at home to the Newcastle Jets on April 10.

Sydney FC: WWWWL

Sydney romped to a 4-1 win at home to Westfield FFA Cup winners Adelaide United in the semi-finals. They signed off on the regular season by sealing a top-two finish courtesy of a 2-1 win away to Wellington Phoenix. Prior to that they edged the Newcastle Jets 4-3 away from home and defeated Perth Glory 3-0 on the road. Like Victory, their last loss came five matches ago, a 1-0 reverse at home to the Reds on April 4.

DID YOU KNOW?

- No player was involved in more of his team’s goals than Besart Berisha in the A-League this season (21; 14 goals, 7 assists).

PREDICTION

Melbourne Victory 4-3 Sydney FC (aet)

We've had some thrilling grand finals down the years, so why should it be any different this weekend? Graham Arnold will want his team to keep it tight, but if they find themselves drawn into an end-to-end goal-fest, they won't be afraid to match Victory blow for blow. With one 0-0 stalemate and two 3-3 draws between these teams so far this season, it looks like the grand final will either be a tense game of chess or a roller-coaster. 

Let's hope it's the latter.