Preview: Melbourne Victory v Adelaide United
Melbourne Victory is on the verge of history. A win in Saturday's Grand Final will see Melbourne become the first Hyundai A-League team to win the Championship on two occasions.
Date: Saturday, February 28 Kick-off: 7:30pm AEDT Venue: Telstra Dome, Melbourne TV and Radio: Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1 and Sky Sport 2. Also broadcasted on SEN 1116AM, SBS Radio, ABC Victoria & South Australia Radio and FRESH FM. Tickets are available from Ticketmaster on 136 100, online or any Ticketmaster outlet.
Head-to-head 17 Hyundai A-League meetings: Adelaide - 5 wins, Melbourne - 9 wins, Draws - 3
Previous meeting Melbourne Victory 4, Adelaide United 0, Telstra Dome, Major-Semi second leg, February 2009
Finals meetings: Melbourne Victory 4, Adelaide United 0, Telstra Dome, Major-Semi second leg,2008/09 Adelaide United 0, Melbourne Victory 2, Hindmarsh Stadium, Major-Semi first leg, 2008/09 Melbourne Victory 6, Adelaide United 0, Telstra Dome, Grand Final, 2006/07 Melbourne Victory 2, Adelaide United 0, Telstra Dome, Major Semi-Final - Leg 2, 2006/07 Adelaide United 0, Melbourne Victory 0, Hindmarsh Stadium, Major Semi-Final - Leg 1, 2006/07
Past Five Games Melbourne Round 19: Perth Glory 3. Melbourne Victory 1, Members Equity Stadium Round 20: Melbourne Victory 3, Central Coast Mariners 0, Telstra Dome Round 21: Melbourne Victory 2, Wellington Phoenix 0, Telstra Dome Major-Semi (Leg 1): Adelaide United 0, Melbourne Victory 2, Hindmarsh Stadium Major Semi (Leg 2): Melbourne Victory 4, Adelaide United 0, Telstra Dome
Adelaide: Round 20: Wellington Phoenix 1, Adelaide United 1, Westpac Stadium Round 21: Central Coast Mariners 0, Adelaide United 1, Bluetongue Stadium Major-Semi (Leg 1): Adelaide United 0, Melbourne Victory 2, Hindmarsh Stadium Major Semi (Leg 2): Melbourne Victory 4, Adelaide United 0, Telstra Dome Preliminary Final: Adelaide United 1, Queensland Roar 0, Hindmarsh Stadium
Analysis: Melbourne Victory is on the verge of history. A win in Saturday's Grand Final will see Melbourne become the first Hyundai A-League team to win the Championship on two occasions. It will also see Melbourne complete a clean sweep of all three available domestic titles, the Pre-Season Cup, the Premiership and the Championship, the first time this would have been done.
But there is one significant hurdle left to clear and while results already this season may suggest Melbourne has Adelaide's measure, the only one that really counts is this match, which the Reds will be desperate to win to avenge their defeat in the season decider two seasons ago.
And what a defeat that was. It was 6-0 with five goals from the Hyundai A-League's most prolific striker Archie Thompson. Seven players from that winning team have been named in an extended squad with five likely to take their place on the field. As a measure of how important success or failure in a Grand Final can be in terms of the future of the club, Adelaide has named just one player from that night, Travis Dodd.
Dodd will be reminding his team-mates that Adelaide owes Melbourne for that defeat and the fact that in eight matches between the two teams since, Victory have only been beaten once. The more recent history between these two featured a 6-0 aggregate win for Melbourne in the Major Semi-Final, and the subsequent explosion from coach Aurelio Vidmar at the post-match press conference.
To Vidmar's credit, there was method in his madness and he rallied his troops to a 1-0 win over Queensland in the Preliminary Final, with Fabian Barbiero's strike booking the Reds a spot in the Grand Final.
So for the 18th time in the Hyundai A-League, these two teams come up against one another, with Melbourne on a seven-match home winning streak and a five-match winning streak against the Reds.
Having scored 11 goals against Adelaide this season and conceded just two, Melbourne has every right to be confident, but it will not be an easy assignment. Adelaide has made no secret of the fact it plans to defend deep and try to create enough on the counter-attack to pinch a winning goal.
It's a plan which threatens to blight the contest as a spectacle to more than 50,000 fans, but as they say, all's fair in love, war and grand finals. Melbourne's challenge will be to not get frustrated, stick to its plan and don't let the Reds sucker-punch them.
Carlos Hernandez looms as the key player of the match. He took Adelaide apart in the semi-final second leg, scoring one goal and setting up three others in his most productive hour of work ever for the Victory. Adelaide will mark him with either Jonas Salley or Paul Reid, or a combination of both.
The Reds' defensive pairing of Robert Cornthwaite and Sasa Ognenovski were largely behind Adelaide's run to the Asian Champions League finals, and their presence in this match quelling the influence of Thompson and Danny Allsopp will be crucial. The Victory pairing have 22 goals between them this season, with Allsopp having scored in both semi-final legs.
The midfield battle will be intriguing with Salley and Reid expected to sit back, leaving Dodd, Barbiero and probably Lucas Pantelis to do the attacking. The speed in which Melbourne was able to move the ball from the back through the middle was a huge factor in the semis and if Tom Pondeljak, Nick Ward and Billy Celeski are given as much freedom in this match, then Melbourne will get a foothold.
Adelaide striker Cristiano has been given the unenviable job of being a one-man band against Kevin Muscat and Rody Vargas up front, but has caused Melbourne some headaches before. The key will be to make sure Adelaide has few chances from the set pieces and that its midfielders don't get a chance to test out Michael Theoklitos from range.
History says Melbourne should collect its second Hyundai A-League championship, but history won't be any help when the players run out onto the cauldron of Telstra Dome on Saturday. But if Melbourne puts on the same performance as it did in the two semi-final legs then it should be enough to recapture its title as the A-League champion club.
Melbourne Victory Squad: 1.Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (Captain), 3.Michael THWAITE, 5.Sebastian RYALL, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 9.Danny ALLSOPP, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 13.Nathan ELASI, 14.Billy CELESKI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Jose Luis LOPEZ, 18.Leigh BROXHAM, 19.Evan BERGER, 20.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 22.Nick WARD *Three to be omitted.
In. Michael THWAITE (promoted), Nathan ELASI (promoted), Leigh BROXHAM (promoted). Out. Nil. Unavailable. Nil.
Adelaide United Squad: 20.Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk), 2.Robert CORNTHWAITE, 3.ALEMAO, 4.Angelo COSTANZO, 5. Michael VALKANIS, 6. CASSIO, 7.Lucas PANTELIS, 9.Paul AGOSTINO, 10.CRISTIANO, 13.Travis DODD (c.), 14.Scott JAMIESON, 15.Jonas SALLEY, 16.Daniel MULLEN, 18.Fabian BARBIERO, 19.Sasa OGNENOVSKI, 22.DIEGO, 24.Paul REID, 25.Robert YOUNIS, 27.Michael MARRONE, 28.Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 30.Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk) * 5 to be omitted
In. CASSIO (returns from suspension), DIEGO (promoted), Robert YOUNIS (promoted), Michael VALKANIS (promoted), Angelo COSTANZO. Out: Nil.
Unavailable: Kristian SARKIES (ankle - 1 week), Daniel BELTRAME (gk) (knee - season), Jason SPAGNUOLO (long term injury).