Preview: Melbourne Victory v Gold Coast United
Melbourne has ascended to the top of the Hyundai A-League table after seven wins in its past nine matches and confronts third-placed Gold Coast in a match which could see Victory jump clear of the pack.
Date: Saturday November 28 Kick-off: 7:00pm AEDT Venue: Etihad Stadium TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 2 and Sky Sports 1. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is 774 ABC Melbourne. To purchase tickets visit www.ticketmaster.com.au Head-to-head 1 Hyundai A-League meeting: Melbourne Victory - 1 win
Previous Meeting Gold Coast United 2, Melbourne Victory 3, Round 8, September 2009
Past five matches: Melbourne Victory: Round 11: Newcastle Jets 1, Melbourne Victory 3, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 12: Melbourne Victory 3, Adelaide United 1, Etihad Stadium Round 13: Perth Glory 1, Melbourne Victory 2, ME Bank Stadium Round 14: Melbourne Victory 0, Central Coast Mariners 4, Etihad Stadium Round 15: Brisbane Roar 0, Melbourne Victory 1,Suncorp Stadium
Gold Coast: Round 11: Gold Coast United 2, Perth Glory 1, Skilled Park Round 12: Wellington Phoenix 6, Gold Coast United 0, Westpac Stadium Round 13: Gold Coast United 0, North Queensland 2, Skilled Park Round 14: Gold Coast 1 United, Sydney FC 0, Skilled Park Round 15: Adelaide United 1, Gold Coast United 1, Hindmarsh Stadium
Analysis: Melbourne has ascended to the top of the Hyundai A-League table after seven wins in its past nine matches and confronts third-placed Gold Coast in a match which could see Victory jump clear of the pack.
Injuries to several key players have not derailed Melbourne's charge towards back-to-back championships, with only a couple of hiccups over the past couple of months. Both of those defeats have come at home against Sydney and Central Coast, and both by big margins, but this match, to be held at a reconfigured Etihad Stadium, presents Melbourne with an opportunity to put behind it any concerns of its home form.
While an overall record of two wins, three losses and three draws at home is not ideal, Melbourne's incredible away form has meant that the pressure is off to perform at home. Ernie Merrick suggested this week that perhaps Melbourne gets a little to carried away with its attacking at home and perhaps that comes at the expense of a solid defence and that's reflected in the fact hat Melbourne has not had a clean sheet at home this season.
Given the strong defensive performance put on by Victory in last week's 1-0 away win against Brisbane, Merrick is unlikely to make any major changes for this match. Nathan Elasi, Ney Fabiano and Matthew Foschini have been included in an extended squad with Surat Sukha also named but unlikely to play because of an injury picked up on international duty.
These two teams have only met on one prior occasion at Skilled Park back in September when Melbourne prevailed 3-2 thanks to a late penalty from Kevin Muscat. Both Archie Thompson and Carlos Hernandez scored on that night and will be crucial players again in this match.
One of the Gold Coast players to score that night was Jason Culina and the Qantas Socceroo will be all-important to the prospects of an under-strength United team in this match. While Shane Smeltz and Joel Porter have formed an excellent attacking combination in their first year it has been the service of Culina which has helped Gold Coast to such a strong start to the season.
Gold Coast's defence has been decimated by injury and suspension with Kristian Rees and Bas Van den Brink both suspended for this match and goalkeeper Jess Vanstratten to miss with a thumb injury. Added to that are existing casualties in former Victory pair Steve Pantelidis and Daniel Piorkowski, plus Robson and Adama Traore which means only Michael Thwaite remains from a first-choice defence.
Thwaite will know the Melbourne attack very well after spending a season with the club last year, and will hope to use his knowledge to negate the influence of Hernandez and Thompson.
The six players that Miron Bleiberg has brought into an extended squad have just seven matches experience between them and speedy youngster Golgol Mebrahtu accounts for five of those games. It will be a very inexperienced defence in particular, but that will create its own issues for Melbourne in terms of the unpredictability of how it will perform.
Gold Coast has been unpredictable this season anyway and Ernie Merrick will have to have his men prepared for most eventualities in this match.
Melbourne Victory: 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, 13.Nathan ELASI, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Matthew FOSCHINI, 19.Evan BERGER, 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 21.Robbie KRUSE, 22.Nick WARD, 23.Adrian LEIJER, 27.Sutee SUKSOMKIT *four to be omitted*
In: Matthew FOSCHINI (promoted), Surat SUKHA (return from injury), NEY FABIANO (promoted), Nathan ELASI (promoted)
Unavailable: Marvin ANGULO (pending registration), Billy CELESKI (knee, season), Steven PACE (calf, 1 week), Tom PONDELJAK (calf, 1 week)
Gold Coast United Squad: 20.Scott HIGGINS (gk), 3.Michael THWAITE, 7.Zenon CARAVELLA, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 10.Jason CULINA (c), 14.Joel PORTER, 15.Tahj MINNIECON, 17.Matt OSMAN, 18.James BROWN, 19.Andrew BARISIC, 23.Steve FITZSIMMONS, 24.ANDERSON, 25.Steven LUSTICA, 26.Golgol MEBRAHTU, 29.Zac ANDERSON, 30.Jerrad TYSON (gk), 31.Ben WEARING, 32.Steven TOPALOVIC. *three to be omitted*
In: Andrew BARISIC (promoted), Steven LUSTICA (promoted), Golgol MEBRAHTU (promoted), Jerrad TYSON [gk] (promoted), Ben WEARING (promoted), Steven TOPALOVIC (promoted)
Out: Jess VANSTRATTAN (gk) (thumb injury - 1 week), Bas VAN DEN BRINK (suspended - 1 week), Kristian REES (suspended - 1 week).
Unavailable: Steve PANTELIDIS (suspended - 1 week), Daniel PIORKOWSKI (ankle injury - indefinite), ROBSON (knee injury - 6 weeks), JEFFERSON (knee injury - indefinite), Adama TRAORE (knee injury - 2 weeks)