Preview: Melbourne Victory v Perth Glory

Melbourne plays three games at Etihad Stadium in the space of 10 days in a period which could prove season-shaping with two clear challengers emerging for the battle for the Hyundai A-League premiership. It kicks off on Saturday with a clash against Perth.

Date: Saturday January 16 Kick-off: 7:00pm AEDT, 4:00pm AWST Venue: Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

Head-to-head 14 Hyundai A-League meetings: Wins: Melbourne 5, Perth 5, Draws: 4

Previous Meeting Perth Glory 1, Melbourne Victory 2, ME Bank Stadium, November 2009

Past five matches: Melbourne Victory: Round 17: Wellington Phoenix 1, Melbourne Victory 1, Westpac Stadium Round 18: Central Coast Mariners 0, Melbourne Victory 3, Bluetongue Stadium Round 20: Melbourne Victory 0, Sydney FC 0, Etihad Stadium Round 21: North Queensland Fury 1, Melbourne Victory 0, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 22: Newcastle Jets 3, Melbourne Victory 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium

Perth Glory: Round 17: Perth Glory 1, Brisbane Roar 1, ME Bank Stadium Round 18: North Queensland 1, Perth Glory 0, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 20: Gold Coast United 2, Perth Glory 0, Skilled Park Round 21: Perth Glory 4, Newcastle Jets 0, ME Bank Stadium Round 22: Perth Glory 0-, Sydney FC, ME Bank Stadium

Analysis: Melbourne plays three games at Etihad Stadium in the space of 10 days in a period which could prove season-shaping with two clear challengers emerging for the battle for the Hyundai A-League premiership. It kicks off on Saturday with a clash against Perth.

Two losses in succession, the first time Victory has lost back-to-back this season, has seen Melbourne slip back to third, two points behind Gold Coast and four points adrift of leader-leader Sydney. While both of those sides have played an extra game, the acid is on Melbourne to bridge the gap over the next fortnight.

Melbourne was unable to take advantage of having Newcastle down to 10 men after half an hour last week, with the Jets rallying to prevail 3-2. It was the second on-the-road disappointment in succession for Victory, which had lost 1-0 to North Queensland just after Christmas.

Ernie Merrick is not known for over-reacting and he is unlikely to make too many changes to the starting line-up for the match against Glory. Matthew Kemp will miss a couple of weeks with a hamstring injury and the Melbourne coach has confirmed Grant Brebner will come into the starting side.

Youngsters Nathan Elasi, Matthew Foschini and Aziz Behich come into an extended squad, while Merrick may also consider giving Tom Pondeljak a return to the first XI.

These two teams have split their two matches so far this season, both in Perth. The Glory prevailed in match dominated by Melbourne 2-1 in August, but Melbourne reversed that scoreline thanks to Carlos Hernandez in November.

Victory has never lost a game against Perth in Melbourne since the inception of the Hyundai A-League. The six encounters between them have resulted in three Melbourne wins and three draws. The Glory's most recent match in Melbourne saw them lose 4-0 last October.

Perth's away form has been very poor this season with just two wins (and eight points in total) from 11 games. However, it is coming off a 4-0 win against Newcastle and a 0-0 draw against Sydney which it dominated.

Eager to get things moving at the club, which is currently sixth with seven matches remaining, coach David Mitchell has made a couple of signings this week, swapping Daniel McBreen for Jimmy Downey and coaxing Scottish midfielder Steven McGarry to the club.

Neither of that pair was named in the squad for this match, but it wouldn't be a big surprise to see them play some part on Saturday. Branko Jelic, who scored twice against Melbourne in August, comes back into the side.

Mitchell is likely to use two big men, Jelic and Jamie Harnwell up front and complement them with speed out wide. Mile Sterjovski has been Perth's leading goalscorer this season and Victory will need no reminder about his abilities after he scored a cracking goal against them the last time the teams met.

Melbourne's charge towards back-to-back premierships needs to be reignited over the next 10 days against Perth, Adelaide and Wellington and you can expect Victory to play its typical attacking style of play in this match as it looks to stamp its quality back on the competition.

Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (c), 3.Mate DUGANDZIC, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 8.Grant BREBNER, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 13.Nathan ELASI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Matthew FOSCHINI, 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 21.Robbie KRUSE, 22.Nick WARD, 23.Adrian LEIJER, 25.Aziz BEHICH, 26.Marvin ANGULO *two to be omitted

In: Aziz BEHICH (promoted from NYL), Nathan ELASI (promoted), Matthew FOSCHINI (promoted)

Out: Matthew KEMP (hamstring - 2 weeks)

Unavailable: Evan BERGER (hamstring, 1 week), Billy CELESKI (knee, season), Steven PACE (abdomen, indefinite), Surat SUKHA (hamstring, 2 weeks)

Perth Glory Squad: 1.Tando VELAPHI (gk), 3.Jamie COYNE, 4.Andy TODD, 5.Jamie HARNWELL, 6.Chris COYNE, 7.Jacob BURNS (c), 11. Branko JELIC, 12.Scott NEVILLE, 13.Scott BULLOCH, 16.Adriano PELLEGRINO, 17.Todd HOWARTH, 19.Naum SEKULOVSKI, 20.Aleks VRTESKI (gk), 21.Mile STERJOVSKI, 23.Andrija JUKIC

In: Branko JELIC (return from injury)

Out: Jimmy DOWNEY (released)

Unavailable: Wayne SRHOJ (Knee - 1 week), Viktor SIKORA (Thigh - 1 week)