Preview: Melbourne Victory v Brisbane Roar
Melbourne's season is right back on track after successive road victories against Adelaide and Gold Coast.
Date: Saturday October 3 Kick-off: 7:30pm AEST Venue: Etihad Stadium TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 1. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is 774 ABC (Melbourne). To purchase tickets visit www.ticketmaster.com.au
Head-to-head Played: 13. Wins: Melbourne 7, Brisbane 4. Draws: 2
Previous meeting Melbourne Victory 3, Brisbane Roar 3, Etihad Stadium, Round 2, August 2009
Season so far: Melbourne Victory: Round 4: Perth Glory 2, Melbourne Victory 1, ME Bank Stadium Round 5: Melbourne Victory 1, Newcastle Jets 1, Etihad Stadium Round 6: Melbourne Victory 1, Wellington Phoenix 1, Etihad Stadium Round 7: Adelaide United 0, Melbourne Victory 2, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 8: Gold Coast United 2, Melbourne Victory 3, Skilled Park
Brisbane Roar: Round 4: Brisbane Roar 1, Central Coast Mariners 0, Suncorp Stadium Round 5: North Queensland Fury 1, Brisbane Roar 1, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 6: Newcastle Jets 0, Brisbane Roar 3, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 7: Brisbane Roar 2, Perth Glory 4, Suncorp Stadium Round 8: Brisbane Roar 1, Sydney FC 0, Suncorp Stadium
Analysis: Melbourne's season is right back on track after successive road victories against Adelaide and Gold Coast, but the one thing that the defending champions haven't got yet this year is a victory at home. That's what Melbourne will be hoping to do when it hosts Brisbane Roar for the second time this season on Saturday night.
Melbourne has had three draws and a loss at Etihad Stadium this year, but certainly could have won any of the three games it has drawn at home. The return of Kevin Muscat has coincided with a return to form which sees Melbourne now just one point adrift of the top of the table after eight rounds.
The stakes in this game are extremely high. The winner could conceivably go top, while the loser could see themselves as low as seventh. Both teams have exactly the same win-loss-draw record and both have a goal difference of plus-one. The only thing that separates them on the table is the fact that Brisbane has scored one extra goal.
The last time they played resulted in a six-goal epic that is a candidate for match of the season. Brisbane took an early 2-0 lead thanks to a magnificent strike from Danny Tiatto and a penalty from Sergio van Dijk. Carlos Hernandez pulled one back with a wonder strike of his own, but Henrique then scored on 36 minutes to make it 3-1.
Staring down the barrel of a second successive home defeat to start the year, Melbourne rallied with a superb Danny Allsopp volley followed up by a magnificent free kick from Hernandez which tied it up at 3-3.
There is no doubt that Melbourne has tightened up defensively since then, with Muscat back alongside Adrian Leijer and Rody Vargas. But Brisbane is also an improved team as well, particularly with Charlie Miller back at full fitness.
While Brisbane may be missing the likes of Matt McKay, Massimo Murdocca, Tommy Oar, Mitch Nichols, Luke DeVere and Michael Zullo through a combination of injuries and national duty, it was still able to get the points off Sydney last week.
Van Dijk scored the winning goal, as he has a knack of doing, but it was set-up by Miller, who is back doing what he does best, pulling the strings and getting the best of his team-mates. Craig Moore's form has also improved with fitness, and Frank Farina, who admitted after the 3-3 draw earlier in the season that his men had run out of energy, will feel more secure of a 90-minute effort here.
Melbourne, which is missing Billy Celeski and Nick Ward from its probable best XI, gets back Tom Pondeljak and Evan Berger. Pondeljak has been struggling with a back injury, while Berger hasn-t played since having a hernia operation a few weeks ago. Robbie Kruse gets a chance to play his old team for the first time having being on the visiting side when the teams met at Etihad in Round 2.
Brisbane has also included two players into an extended squad, Adam Sarota, and short-term acquisition Mario Karlovic.
Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (c), 3.Mate DUGANDZIC, 5.Surat SUKHA, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Matthew FOSCHINI, 19.Evan BERGER, 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 21.Robbie KRUSE, 23.Adrian LEIJER *two to be omitted*
In: Evan BERGER (return from injury), Tom PONDELJAK (return from injury)
Unavailable: Billy CELESKI (knee - season), Nathan ELASI (international duty), Steven PACE (abdominal - 2 weeks), Mathew THEODORE (glute - 2 weeks), Nick WARD (infection - indefinite)
Brisbane Roar squad: 1. Liam REDDY (gk), 4. Craig MOORE (c), 5. Josh McCLOUGHAN, 6. David DODD, 9. Sergio VAN DIJK, 10. Charlie MILLER, 11. REINALDO, 12. Matt MUNDY, 13. HENRIQUE, 14. Adam SAROTA, 16. Bob MALCOLM, 18. Danny TIATTO, 19. Isaka CERNAK, 20. Griffin McMASTER (gk), 23. Tim SMITS, 27. Ivan FRANJIC, 29 Mario KARLOVIC *two to be omitted*
In: Adam SAROTA (promoted), Mario KARLOVIC (short term-contract)
Unavailable: Andrew PACKER (adductor - 1 week), Massimo MURDOCCA (fractured leg - 6/8 weeks), Matt McKAY (medial ligament - 2/3 weeks), Michael ZULLO (Hip flexor - 1/2 weeks), Tommy OAR (international duty), Luke DEVERE (international duty), Mitch NICHOLS (international duty)