A-League preview: Melbourne Victory v Perth Glory

A-League action heads down the Bellarine Peninsula as New Year’s revellers have the chance to head straight from some blockbuster breaks at Bells Beach to a blockbuster at Simonds Stadium when Melbourne Victory look to put Perth Glory back in their place.

Fixture details
Melbourne Victory v Perth Glory
Simonds Stadium, Geelong
Kick-Off: 7:40 PM (Local) (7:40 PM AEDT)

Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Nathan COE (GK), 2. Jason GERIA, 4. Nick ANSELL, 6.Leigh BROXHAM (C), 7. Gui FINKLER, 8.Besart BERISHA, 9. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11. Connor PAIN, 13. Andrew NABBOUT, 18. Dylan MURNANE, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (GK), 21.Carl VALERI, 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 23.Adrian LEIJER, 24. Scott GALLOWAY, 26. Jordan BROWN. ***one to be omitted***

Ins: 13. Andrew NABBOUT, 18. Dylan MURNANE, 26. Jordan BROWN (all promoted)
Outs: 14. Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH (suspension – 1 match), 16. Rashid MAHAZI (hip – 1 week)
Unavailable: 5. Mark MILLIGAN (international duty) 15. Daniel GEORGIEVSKI (ankle – 1 week), 17. Matthieu DELPIERRE (foot – 3-4 weeks)

Perth Glory Squad: 1.Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 2.Jack CLISBY, 3. Brandon O’NEIL, 5.Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 6.Dino DJULBIC, 8.Ruben ZADKOVICH, 9.Andy KEOGH, 10.Nebojsa MARINKOVIC, 11.Richard GARCIA, 14.Chris HAROLD, 15.Jamie MACLAREN, 16.Sidnei SCIOLA, 18. Jack DUNCAN (gk) 19.Josh RISDON, 20.Daniel DE SILVA, 21.Scott JAMIESON, 23.Michael THWAITE (c) 24. Matthew DAVIES ***two to be omitted***

Ins: 10.Nebojsa MARINKOVIC (promoted) 24. Matthew DAVIES (promoted)
Outs: Nil
Unavailable: 7.Youssouf HERSI (Hamstring – indefinite), 17.Mitch NICHOLS (Hamstring – 6 weeks)

Referee: Shaun Evans
Assistant Referee 1: David Walsh
Assistant Referee 2: Nathan MacDonald
Fourth Official: Patrick Chaplin

Broadcast Details
TV Broadcast: Live coverage on FOX SPORTS 505 from 7.00pm (AEDT), Live Coverage on SBS HD & SBS One from 7.30pm AEDT and Sky Sport 4 (New Zealand)

Radio Broadcast: 774 ABC Melbourne, Local Radio VIC, 936 ABC Hobart & Northern Tasmania 720 ABC Perth & ABC Local Radio WA, Grandstand Digital, Online / ABC Radio Mobile phone app. SEN Radio

Hashtag #MVCvPER

Bluffer’s guide
Geelong couldn’t have hoped for a better taste of A-League action than this mouth-watering one-v-two clash at Simonds Stadium. The competition’s two form teams go head-to-head in the league – they’ve previously squared off in the FFA Cup – for the first time this season, with Victory determined to cut Glory’s lead at the top of the table. Perth, on the other hand, will want to make a statement against the team widely regarded as a title favourite.

For Victory, Kevin Muscat’s side will have to make do without suspended attacker Fahid Ben Khalfallah. Skipper Mark Milligan also leaves a hole in midfield. Perth, on the other hand, welcome back key midfielder Nebo Marinkovic after he missed the club’s 1-1 draw with Melbourne City on Boxing Day through illness. Kenny Lowe may throw in a few surprise selections, though, for he’ll want to keep his squad fresh as Glory face an equally tough away clash against Adelaide United just 72 hours after this match.

Opta Data stats
Perth Glory are usually known as road bunnies but their away form against top-notch opponents this season has been instrumental in them being atop the A-League ladder. Melbourne Victory are the only side in the current top six Glory haven’t played, with the club having faced all the other four teams on the road so far this season. From those four games they have recorded seven points, the blemishes being a loss in Adelaide and the most recent 1-1 draw with Melbourne City. The only top-six side they’ve faced at home this season has been Wellington Phoenix.

Route to goal
Victory have the pace and guile to work their way through Perth’s defence in the form of Kosta Barbarouses, Archie Thompson and Perth’s old enemy from his Roar days, Besart Berisha. Glory have tall timber like Michael Thwaite and Dino Djulbic to prevent headed goals and while Thwaite is deceptively quick, their entire back four will be kept on their toes by Victory’s passing and movement in the front half.

Kevin Muscat’s side, though, will have to be wary of quick counter-attacking raids from Glory as they have pace down the flanks while Marinkovic’s distribution through the middle works perfectly for Andy Keogh to produce results up front. Indeed, the last time these sides played in the FFA Cup quarter-final, it was Keogh that delivered the goods, scoring a brace in what proved a 4-2 extra-time win. 

Who’s been in the spotlight this week?
Gui Finkler. It was the Brazilian midfielder who delivered the goods for Victory in their last clash against the Jets, confidently stroking home a late free kick from the edge of the area to give Melbourne a 1-0 win in a game where their form didn’t reach any great heights.

Form lines 
Glory haven’t lost in the league since Week 3 when they fell to Adelaide United, although the WA club did cop a beating in the recent FFA Cup Final. Victory on the other hand, responded to a 1-0 loss to Melbourne City by beating the Jets by the same scoreline last Saturday night. 

Did you know?
Perth Glory haven’t beaten Victory in the league since March 2013 when Josh Risdon produced a 90th-minute stunner for a thrilling 3-2 win. Since that time, Glory have lost three of the four clashes between these sides.

Result: 2-2

For ladder leaders Perth, this game starts what appears a season-defining sequence of matches where they face Victory twice – the second game is after the Asian Cup on Jan 25 - either side of an away clash to Adelaide United. Lose those three matches and they’ll give up top spot on the table to Victory and that six-point buffer at the top they enjoyed at Christmas – one they worked so hard to get – will have been thrown away. While Perth’s record has been good this season, there’s always been question marks over their place at the top as they haven’t played Victory. Those questions will now be answered over the next three games. But if Perth can break even with Kevin Muscat’s side, they’ll still enjoy a handy buffer at the top leading into the season’s second half.

Victory then, will probably be the more desperate to earn the win, as they’ll want to eat into Glory’s current four-point lead at the top. Key striker Berisha has also endured something of a lean spell by his standards, but he loves playing against the boys in purple. Expect there to be some drama in this but a 2-2 draw could still be the end result.