Preview: Adelaide United v Melbourne Victory

Quite simply they are Victory's biggest rivals on the pitch even if Ernie Merrick's men have dominated proceedings between the teams in recent times.

Date: Friday February 11 Kick-off: 7:30pm local (8:00pm AEDT) Venue: Adelaide Oval, Adelaide Television: Live and exclusive on Fox Sports 2 Live Match Centre:

Head-to-head Played 23: Melbourne Victory 14, Adelaide United 6, Draws 3

Previous Meeting Melbourne Victory 1, Adelaide United 4, AAMI Park, January 2011

Why we don't like 'em Quite simply they are Victory's biggest rivals on the pitch even if Ernie Merrick's men have dominated proceedings between the teams in recent times.

Before their most recent clash, where Adelaide comfortably beat an under-strength Melbourne side 4-1 at AAMI, Melbourne had won the past 10 - that's right, 10 - games between the teams. The Reds haven't won a game against Victory on their home ground since October 2007.

Victory supporters still haven't forgotten either that Adelaide prevailed in all three of the battles between the teams in Season One of the Hyundai A-League back in 2005-06, as well as in a certain visit to Etihad Stadium the following season when then-Reds coach John Kosmina and Kevin Muscat had a difference of opinion after the ball went over the sideline.

Two grand final triumphs over the Reds, including the unforgettable one in 2006-07 when Archie Thompson bagged five goals in the 6-0 demolition still weigh heavily on Adelaide United minds.

Past five matches: Adelaide United: Adelaide United 0, Wellington Phoenix 1, Hindmarsh Stadium Gold Coast United 0, Adelaide United 0, Skilled Park Adelaide United 1, Central Coast Mariners 2, Hindmarsh Stadium Adelaide United 8, North Queensland Fury 1, Hindmarsh Stadium Melbourne Victory 1, Adelaide United 4, AAMI Park

Melbourne Victory: Melbourne Victory 2, Newcastle Jets 0, Etihad Stadium Melbourne Victory 2, Gold Coast United 0, AAMI Park North Queensland Fury 0, Melbourne Victory 3, Dairy Farmers Stadium Melbourne Victory 2, Melbourne Heart 2, Etihad Stadium Sydney FC 1, Melbourne Victory 1, SFS

Decisions for Ernie

With Archie Thompson, Carlos Hernandez and Surat Sukha all back available for this match, Merrick has some tough calls to make. He has indicated that all three may be used off the bench and he will stick with the players who have served him well over the past three matches. Grant Brebner and Billy Celeski are both still unavailable. Luke Pilkington has been left out of an extended squad.

Behind Enemy Lines

Adelaide have recalled experienced duo Robert Cornthwaite and Lucas Pantelis , while Mathew Leckie is also named in the squad. Cassio and Osama Malik are ruled out through injury while Daniel Mullen, Joe Keenan and Fabian Barbiero are all long-term absentees.

Our Hero

Robbie Kruse - The rising star marked his return from Socceroos duties with a goal against Newcastle, his 11th for the season. He impressed in that match and will be much better off having had a week to recover from his trip to the Middle East

Danger Man

Sergio van Dijk - The A-League's leading goalscorer has been a key to their improvement this season, scoring goals at will and relishing the attacking set-up at the Reds. He scored a brilliant free kick against Victory last time they played as well as another goal and he will by a key figure here.

Why we will win

Tom Pondeljak gave an indication earlier this week as to how motivated the Victory players are ahead of the final series. He said the 4-1 defeat to Adelaide in January had embarrassed the players and they had drawn a line in the sand after that match.

The stats would indicate that, with Victory unbeaten in five matches since that humiliation. The last three games have produced three comfortable wins and Melbourne have five of their best players still to come back into the team.

This match means nothing in terms of ladder position - barring a stunning turn of events in the Brisbane-Gold Coast match - but Melbourne will be desperate to maintain the momentum heading into the finals series.

They will also be keen to test the fitness of Thompson, Hernandez and Sukha ahead of a finals campaign which will likely see them on the road for all four matches should they make it that far.

Victory's previous record against the Reds probably doesn-t count for much here, but it is worth noting that they haven't lost in Adelaide since 2007. All those matches were at Hindmarsh Stadium, but this one is at Adelaide Oval, where Victory have never played before.

The Reds' form heading into the finals has been less than inspiring and they haven't won in three matches since demolishing North Queensland 8-1 a month ago. The form and fitness of keeper Eugene Galekovic are keys to their titles aspirations, as their defence has struggled a bit of late.

This time around Melbourne's attack will feature Robbie Kruse and Mate Dugandzic from the start as well as an in-form Danny Allsopp and should offer plenty of more trouble for the home side.

That attacking edge, plus the accomplished performance of the defence in Kevin Muscat's absence makes another Melbourne success the most likely outcome.


Adelaide United:

1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk), 2.Robert CORNTHWAITE, 3.Nigel BOOGAARD, 7.Lucas PANTELIS, 8.Adam HUGHES, 9.Sergio VAN DIJK, 10.Marcos FLORES, 11.Andy SLORY, 12.Paul REID, 13.Travis DODD (c), 14.Cameron WATSON, 16.Dario BODRUSIC, 17.Iain RAMSAY, 19.Mathew LECKIE, 20.Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk), 21.Francisco USUCAR *one to be omitted*

In: Robert CORNTHWAITE (returns from injury), Lucas PANTELIS (promoted), Mathew LECKIE (promoted)

Out: CASSIO (thigh - 1 week), Osama MALIK (hamstring - 1 week)

Unavailable: Daniel MULLEN (knee - season), Joe COSTA (knee - season), Joe KEENAN (leg - season), Fabian BARBIERO (ankle - season)

Melbourne Victory: 1.Michael PETKOVIC (gk), 3. Mate DUGANDZIC, 4. Petar FRANJIC, 5. Surat SUKHA, 6. Leigh BROXHAM, 7. Matthew KEMP, 9. RICARDINHO, 10. Archie THOMPSON, 11. Marvin ANGULO, 12. Rodrigo VARGAS, 13. Diogo FERREIRA, 15. Tom PONDELJAK, 16. Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17. Matthew FOSCHINI, 18. Danny ALLSOPP, 20. Sebastian MATTEI (gk), 21. Robbie KRUSE, 23. Adrian LEIJER (c) *three to be omitted*

In: Leigh BROXHAM (returns from injury), Archie THOMPSON, Surat SUKHA, Carlos HERNANDEZ.


Unavailable: Kevin MUSCAT (suspension), Billy CELESKI (injured), Grant BREBNER (injured).