Matchday preview: Melbourne Victory v Perth Glory

In a weekend of A-League action packed with top-quality fixtures, this is looming as the pick of them. The race for the Premier's Plate and an all-important top-two finish is heating up with every round and that means Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory can't afford to drop points at AAMI Park, particularly with Adelaide United and Wellington Phoenix hot on their heels.

MATCH DETAILS

Saturday, 7 March 2015

AAMI Park, Melbourne

Kick-Off: 7:30 PM (Local) (7:30 PM AEDT)

SQUADS

Melbourne Victory squad: 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, 11.Connor PAIN, 13.Andrew NABBOUT, 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 15.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 17.Matthieu DELPIERRE, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (GK), 21.Carl VALERI, 24.Scott GALLOWAY

***two to be omitted***

Ins: 11.Connor PAIN (promoted), 13.Andrew NABBOUT (promoted)

Outs: Nil

Unavailable: Nil

Perth Glory FC squad: 1.Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 5.Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 6.Dino DJULBIC, 9.Andy KEOGH, 10.Nebojsa MARINKOVIC, 11.Richard GARCIA, 14.Chris Harold, 15.Jamie MACLAREN, 17.Mitch NICHOLS, 16.Sidnei SCIOLA, 18.Jack DUNCAN (gk), 19.Josh RISDON, 20.Daniel DE SILVA, 21.Scott JAMIESON, 23.Michael THWAITE (c), 27.Dragan PALJIC, 28.Denis KRAMAR

***two to be omitted***

Ins: 8.Ruben ZADKOVICH (promoted), 16.Sidnei SCIOLA (promoted), 18.Jack DUNCAN (gk)

Outs: 30.Jordan THURTELL (gk) (not selected)

Unavailable: 7.Youssouf HERSI (hamstring – season), 13.Diogo FEREIRA (hip – 2 weeks)

BLUFFER'S GUIDE

Whether you're a fan of the clubs involved or a neutral hungry for action, it's almost impossible not to get excited about this one.

The A-League's top two teams going into round 20, both of these sides remain firm favourites to claim the Premier's Plate and go on to challenge for the title.

Perth have had the edge from three meetings in all competitions, winning 4-2 after extra-time in the FFA Cup, beating Victory 2-1 in Geelong in January and coming back from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 at home later that month.

Saturday evening though will mark the first time this season that the Big V have tackled the Glory squarely on their own terms, with what is set to be a packed house at AAMI Park cheering on the men in navy blue and white.

Should the Glory lose, they will find themselves well and truly back among the pack. A Perth defeat coupled with Adelaide and Wellington drawing in New Zealand earlier in the day would actually leave Kenny Lowe's men sitting fourth, which would be a bitter pill to swallow for a team who enjoyed quite a cushion at the top just a couple of months ago.

OPTA DATA

- Melbourne Victory have scored in 14 successive A-League games against Perth Glory.

- Melbourne Victory have scored exactly three goals in three of their last four A-League games, but they have also conceded exactly three goals in three of these four games.

- Perth have averaged the lowest possession figure in the A-League so far this season (44.1%).

ROUTE TO GOAL

Victory's marquee international striker Besart Berisha will have been stewing on his penalty miss in the 3-2 loss at home to Wellington last week, while Glory's Irish centre-forward Andy Keogh hasn't found the back of the net in five matches. Both are born marksman who live on goals, expect them to be up for this one in a big way.

They aren't the only threats at goal though. Victory's Kosta Barbarouses, Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Guilherme Finkler will pose a constant danger to the visitors' defence, while Richard Garcia, Daniel De Silva, Dragan Paljic, Chris Harold and Jamie Maclaren are among Lowe's attacking options, with wily pair Mitch Nichols and Nebojsa Marinkovic pulling the strings

WHO'S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?

Will Matthieu Delpierre return to the starting line-up for Victory? The Big V said goodbye to stalwart centre-back Adrian Leijer last week following his transfer to Chinese Super League club Chongqing Lifan.

Leigh Broxham has often done well filling in at centre-back but is vulnerable in the air and not a permanent solution. Delpierre, out since Victory's FFA Cup last-eight exit away to Perth back in late October, had spent several weeks in full training before coming on as a sub for Mark Milligan on Sunday, with Muscat determined not to take any chances on the Frenchman's fitness.

If he starts on Saturday, the hosts will have a better chance of winning. But should the 33-year-old suffer a relapse of his foot issue or pick up another problem, it could scupper Victory's title hopes.

FORM LINES

Melbourne Victory: LDWDW

Prior to their 3-2 loss at home to the Phoenix on Sunday, Victory drew 3-3 at Sydney FC, beat Melbourne City 3-0 and drew 3-3 away to Glory.

Perth Glory: DDDLD

The Glory were held to a 2-2 draw at home to Brisbane Roar on Saturday night. Before that there were two away draws, 0-0 with Melbourne City and 2-2 at bogey side Adelaide United. They lost 3-1 at home to Sydney on February 2.

DID YOU KNOW?

- Perth Glory's Josh Risdon has made a league-high 75 tackles this season.

PREDICTION
Melbourne Victory 2-2 Perth Glory

We're going for an 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.