Preview: Victory v Wanderers

What a classic match up to kick off Hyundai A-League season 2014/15 and a fantastic first game for SBS ONE’s coverage of Australia’s elite domestic competition.

Match details
 
Friday, 10 October 2014
Melbourne Victory v Western Sydney Wanderers FC
Etihad Stadium, Melbourne
Kick-off: 7.40pm local (7:40pm AEDT)
Referee: Jarred Gillett

TV broadcast: Live coverage on FOX SPORTS 1HD & 1 from 7.00pm (AEDT), Live Coverage on SBS ONE from 7.30pm AEDT and Sky Sport 1 (New Zealand)
 
Radio Broadcast: 774 ABC Melbourne, ABC Local radio Victoria, 702 ABC Sydney, ABC Local Radio NSW, 666 ABC Canberra, 936 ABC Hobart and ABC Northern Tasmania, Grandstand Digital, Online/A-League Live Mobile phone app. SEN Radio
 
Join the conversation on Twitter using the hash-tag #MVCvWSW
 

Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Nathan COE (GK), 2.Jason GERIA, 6.Leigh BROXHAM (c), 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, 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 23.Adrian LEIJER
 
Unavailable: 4.Nick ANSELL (foot – 3 weeks), 5.Mark MILLIGAN (international duty), 18.Dylan MURNANE (international duty), 24.Scott GALLOWAY (international duty), 26.Jordan BROWN (international duty)
 
Western Sydney Wanderers squad: 1.Ante COVIC (GK), 2.Shannon COLE, 3.Daniel MULLEN, 5.Brendan HAMILL, 6.Antony GOLEC, 7.Labinot HALITI, 8.Mateo POLJAK, 10.Vitor SABA, 22.Brendon SANTALAB, 14.Kwabena APPIAH, 15.Yianni PERKATIS, 17.Romeo CASTELEN, 18.Iacopo LA ROCCA, 19.Mark BRIDGE, 20.Dean BOUZANIS (GK), 23.Jason TRIFIRO, 31.Alusine FOFANAH
***one to be omitted***

Unavailable: 4.Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY (national team duty), 9.Tomi JURIC (groin – 1 week), 12.Golgol MUBRAHTU (knee – indefinite), 13.Matthew SPIRANOVIC (ankle – 3 weeks), 22.Seyi ADELEKE (abroad – indefinite)
 

Bluffer's guide

Melbourne Victory head into this match as many pundits' favourites - not only for the season-opener but also for the Hyundai A-League championship.

With a reinforced spine, including star striker Besart Berisha, the Big V look very formidable and will hope to capitalise on a weakened Western Sydney Wanderers line-up, who will be without first-choice central defensive pairing Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Socceroos duty) and Matthew Spiranovic (rehabbing an ankle injury).

But Tony Popovic's red-and-blacks relish big games - as they have proved in Asia - and are hard to discount in this tasty encounter at Etihad Stadium on Friday night.

Opta Data stats

The strength of Victory's defence could well decide this game after a couple of poor seasons in that department.

Victory have had the second worst defence over the past two Hyundai A-League campaigns but with new signings Matthieu Delpierre and Daniel Georgievski set to line-up in the back on Friday night, coach Kevin Muscat may have found a better formula.

Western Sydney have scored in their last five matches against Victory, while the one time Victorian club earned a clean sheet was in November 2012 when they defeated the Wanderers 2-0.

Route to goal

Gone are the days of Victory's 4-2-2-2 striker-less formation that Ange Postecoglou introduced in the 2012-13 season.

With Berisha, Victory finally have a focal point up front and if the fiery Albanian receives enough supply from the likes of Kosta Barbarouses and Gui Finkler in a 4-3-3, Popovic's visitors will struggle in Melbourne.

For Western Sydney, former Victory goalkeeper Ante Covic will have to produce another top performance if the Wanderers are to get a result, as they are likely to surrender possession and territory to their hosts.

Who's been in the spotlight this week?

After three impressive seasons - including two championships with Brisbane Roar - everyone wants to know how Berisha will go wearing navy blue.

Did you know?

In the past two meetings between these two clubs, Victory playmaker Gui Finkler has scored in second-half stoppage time.

Prediction

Result: Victory 2-1 Wanderers

Punters may be tempted by Victory's bad record in the opening round of the Hyundai A-League - no win since the 2007-08 season - but Muscat looks to have built a very different machine this term.

Despite the loss of skipper Mark Milligan (Socceroos duty), the home side will have too many threats at Etihad Stadium, while Western Sydney could lack creativity after the departures of Shinji Ono, Aaron Mooy and Youssouf Hersi after last season.