Preview: Melbourne Victory v Brisbane Roar
It may not have been the start to the season that Melbourne Victory wanted, but the 2-0 defeat to Central Coast was a reminder of how tight the competition will be this season.
Date: Saturday August 15 Kick-off: 7:30pm AEST Venue: Etihad Stadium TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 3. To purchase tickets visit www.ticketmaster.com.au
Head-to-head 12 Hyundai A-League meetings: Wins: Melbourne 7, Brisbane 4, Draws - 1
Previous meeting Melbourne Victory 2, Queensland Roar 1, Etihad Stadium, Round 17, January 2009
Season so far: Melbourne Victory: Round 1: Melbourne Victory 0, Central Coast Mariners 2, Etihad Stadium
Brisbane Roar: Round 1: Brisbane Roar 1, Gold Coast United 3, Suncorp Stadium
Analysis: It may not have been the start to the season that Melbourne Victory wanted, but the 2-0 defeat to Central Coast was a reminder of how tight the competition will be this season and that as defending Hyundai A-League champions, the opposition is going to want to take it up to Victory.
It was a defeat which had its fair share of bad luck, but Melbourne was guilty of being sluggish at the start of its game and then didn-t have the polish up front when the game swung back its way in the second half.
Coach Ernie Merrick said this week that most of the first round action had a sense of still being in the pre-season about it. He is far from panicked about a first-up loss and sees Saturday's clash with Brisbane at Etihad Stadium as a great opportunity to get things moving for season 5.0.
Merrick will be without Kevin Muscat for this game and at least three more with the veteran defender and skipper tearing a hamstring against the Mariners. Matthew Kemp will cover him in the centre of defence, while Merrick is keeping his options open about the position on the right of defence. Nick Ward looked lively in that position late in last week's game, while Leigh Broxham and Billy Celeski could also step in.
Surat Sukha has been named in the squad, and while Merrick admits he is still a bit underdone, could slot into that role. The versatile Thai international could be set to make his first official appearance. Rody Vargas gets the captain's armband.
There were a few positive performances in the opening match, with Evan Berger getting forward and causing some headaches out wide. He is set for a busy night against the likes of Robbie Kruse, Henrique and Michael Zullo likely to attack the other way down the wings.
Brisbane's first-up loss was not without its bright points either. The Roar controlled much of the play, particularly in the first half and coach Frank Farina was left to lament a lack of sharpness in front of goal. Sergio van Dijk is again the main man up front and he was supported by Mitch Nichols, Henrique and Kruse last week.
Danny Tiatto was busy, both distributing the ball forward and in stopping Gold Coast's midfield, and appears to be in good form, while the major new face is Bob Malcolm, a strong centre back who lends a hand to Craig Moore in defence. Together with Matt McKay and Charlie Miller, they form a solid old guard which is complimented by the youth of rest of the team.
While they like to attack out wide, van Dijk is their major route to goal and it is likely to be the Dutchman which gets all the attention from Vargas.
Melbourne will look to exploit Brisbane with Archie Thompson's pace in behind and from set pieces, where Victory got joy from against the Roar last season. Thompson will be especially determined to perform well in this match after a tough night at the office last week.
Merrick won-t be making any massive changes as he believes he has the right set-up and the right personnel to get the job done. Melbourne will focus on its own game and hopefully emerge with the three points to get some momentum up ahead of trips to Townsville and Perth in the next fortnight.
Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 5.Surat SUHKA, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 9.Danny ALLSOPP, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS (c), 14.Billy CELESKI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 19.Evan BERGER, 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 22.Nick WARD
In: Surat SUHKA (promoted) Out: Kevin MUSCAT (hamstring - 4-6 weeks) Unavailable: Nil
Brisbane Roar: 1.Liam REDDY (gk), 3.Luke DEVERE, 4.Craig MOORE (c), 5.Josh McCLOUGHAN, 6.David DODD, 7.Michael ZULLO, 9.Sergio VAN DIJK, 10.Charlie MILLER, 12.Matt MUNDY, 13.HENRIQUE, 15.Matt McKAY, 16.Bob MALCOLM, 17.Mitch NICHOLS, 18.Danny TIATTO, 20.Griffin McMASTER (gk), 24.Robbie KRUSE *one to be omitted
In: David DODD (promoted), Matt MUNDY (promoted) Out: Andrew PACKER (torn adductor - 2-3 months) Unavailable: Massimo MURDOCCA (fractured leg - 3-4 months)
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