A-League preview: Brisbane Roar v Melbourne Victory

The reigning champions versus many experts’ tip for this season’s title: Brisbane host Victory in a Friday night blockbuster. Who will prevail in the rain at a rocking Suncorp Stadium?

MATCH DETAILS

Friday, 20 February 2015 

Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane 

Kick-Off: 7pm (Local) (8pm AEDST) 

SQUADS

Brisbane Roar 1.Michael THEO (gk), 2.Jerome POLENZ, 3.Shane STEFANUTTO, 4.Adam SAROTA, 5.Corey BROWN, 8.Steven LUSTICA, 9.ANDRIJA Kaluderovic, 10.HENRIQUE, 13.Jade NORTH, 15.James DONACHIE, 17.Matt McKAY (c), 18. Luke BRATTAN, 21.Jamie YOUNG (gk), 22.Thomas BROICH, 28.Brandon BORRELLO, 34.Shannon BRADY

Ins HENRIQUE (returns from injury)

Outs Jean Carlos SOLORZANO (hamstring – two weeks) 

Unavailable Nil 

Melbourne Victory 1. Nathan COE (GK), 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, 13. Andrew NABBOUT, 14. Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 15. Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 16. Rashid MAHAZI, 20. Lawrence THOMAS (GK), 21. Carl VALERI, 22. Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 23. Adrian LEIJER, 24. Scott GALLOWAY 

***two to be omitted***

Ins 15. Daniel GEORGIEVSKI (promoted), 22. Jesse MAKAROUNAS (promoted)

Outs Nil

Unavailable 17. Matthieu DELPIERRE (injury)

BLUFFER’S GUIDE

What a game to kick off Round 18 of the Hyundai A-League. The clash between two of the competition’s best passing and most-attacking sides has all the ingredients of a classic, though the expected wet conditions might make it a bit more difficult for the respective teams.   

Both are on impressive unbeaten runs and often save their best for when they meet each other. Throw in the fact a certain Besart Berisha is back at his old home ground for the first time and something tells me we’re in for a ripper. 

While Victory are 12 points ahead of Brisbane on the ladder, the home side appear to be hitting their straps at the right time. If they can knock over Victory then any doubts ‘Roar are back’ and contenders to defend their title would most be dispelled. 

Coach Frans Thijssen is forced into one change for the home side with the in-form Jean Carlos Solorzano to miss a couple of weeks with a hamstring problem. 

But they have the ideal replacement with leading scorer Henrique back in the squad. The Brazilian could come straight back into the starting side in attack although new signing Andrija Kaluderovic is also an option.

There’s still no return for Frenchman Matthieu Delpierre for the visitors although Macedonian international Daniel Georgievski is back in the squad and could come into the side, especially after Victory conceded three times for the second game in three weeks last weekend.

OPTA DATA STATS

-Melbourne Victory has scored exactly three goals in each of their last three Hyundai A-League games, though they’ve won only one of these (D2). 

-The last three meetings between these sides has ended 1-0 in favour of the home side, twice for Brisbane. 

-Victory has not won in Brisbane since November 2009, a run of seven matches (D1 L6). 

-Brisbane has conceded the fewest fouls in the Hyundai A-League this season (188), while Melbourne Victory has conceded the most (294).

ROUTE TO GOAL

The goals of Costa Rican Jean Carlos Solorzano have been vital to Roar’s surge up the ladder and his absence due to injury is a blow. New signing Andrija Kaluderovic made a scoring debut against the Mariners but taking on the might of Melbourne Victory in his first start is another story. 

Thomas Broich has been involved in six of Brisbane’s last seven goals and will need a big game for the home side here. Victory are the competition’s leading scorers with 37 in their 17 games, with their front four of Berisha, Finkler, Barbarouses and Ben Khalfallah in eye-catching form.

WHO’S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?

Besart Berisha. Who else can it be but the fiery Albanian ahead of his first return to Suncorp since leaving Brisbane in the off-season? 

Berisha enjoyed huge success at the Roar – winning two championships – but is back in different colours and looking to halt his former clubs charge to the finals. 

Renowned for delivering on the big occasion, including those two grand final wins, Berisha will fancy himself to make an impact but the likes of Jade North and James Donachie know his game well and will be up for the fight. It promises to be another absorbing battle, which seems to always be the case when Berisha is involved.

FORM LINES

Roar is the form side of the competition since the return from the Asian Cup break, winning three in a row including a hard-earned 2-0 win – thanks to two penalties – against Central Coast last Friday. The win enabled Brisbane to leapfrog Melbourne City FC into the top six.

Victory scored three goals away from home but had to settle for a point in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Sydney FC. They remain one point behind league-leaders Perth Glory.

DID YOU KNOW?

Melbourne Victory’s Besart Berisha has been involved in more goals this season than any other player with 14 (nine goals and five assists).

PREDICTION Brisbane Roar FC 1-1 Melbourne Victory

Roar have yet to hit any real great heights in their winning run and unless they can add a bit more quality to their play for longer periods they might struggle against Victory’s pace, movement and lethal attack transition. 

You would expect Brisbane to lift in all departments for such a big match which, despite being only round 18, has very much a finals feel to it. This has the prospect of being one match you won’t want to take your eyes off – especially with the Berisha factor – and could go either way. But I’m sticking with a 1-1 draw at Suncorp.