Preview: Melbourne Victory v Queensland Roar

Melbourne's season could well be defined in the next five days. In a blockbuster start to the New Year, Victory plays host to the top two teams in Queensland and Adelaide in what could be a sneak preview of the finals.

Date: Friday, January 2 Kick-off: 8:00pm AEDT Venue: Telstra Dome, Melbourne TV and Radio: Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1 and Sky Sport 1. Hyundai A-League club radio broadcast partner is SEN (Melbourne) 1116AM. To purchase tickets visit www.ticketmaster.com.au

Head-to-head 11 Hyundai A-League meetings: Wins: Melbourne 6, Queensland 4, Draws - 1

Previous meeting Queensland 0, Melbourne 1, Suncorp Stadium, Round 11, November 2008

Past Five Games Melbourne Round 12: Melbourne Victory 2, Central Coast Mariners 1, Telstra Dome Round 13: Wellington Phoenix 2, Melbourne Victory 1, Westpac Stadium Round 14: Perth Glory 3, Melbourne Victory 1, Members Equity Stadium Round 16: Newcastle Jets 4, Melbourne Victory 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 17: Melbourne Victory 3, Sydney FC 2, Telstra Dome

Queensland: Round 12: Queensland Roar 4, Perth Glory 1, Suncorp Stadium Round 13: Sydney FC 1, Queensland Roar 1, Sydney Football Stadium Round 14: Central Coast Mariners 1, Queensland Roar 1, Bluetongue Stadium Round 15: Queensland Roar 2, Newcastle Jets 1, Suncorp Stadium Round 17: Queensland Roar 3, Wellington Phoenix 2, Suncorp Stadium

Analysis Melbourne's season could well be defined in the next five days. In a blockbuster start to the New Year, Victory plays host to the top two teams in Queensland and Adelaide in what could be a sneak preview of the finals.

Victory's brilliant 3-2 win over Sydney last week has given the club considerable momentum and positive results against the Roar and the Reds could well see Melbourne on top of the ladder. However, should Melbourne squander that momentum then top spot, and the luxuries it affords, could slip out of sight leaving Ernie Merrick's men with a fight just to make the finals.

Forever a believer in the 'one match of a time' philosophy, Merrick won't want his players thinking too far ahead. The Roar loom as serious opponents having gone five matches without defeat, propelling them up the ladder and level with Melbourne on points.

Their depth of young talent make them one of the hardest teams in the competition to play against as Melbourne found out when Roar staged a smash and grab raid for all three points at Telstra Dome earlier in the season. However, the Victory's 1-0 win in Brisbane a few weeks back with give the home side some confidence that they can emerge with all three points from this one.

Also giving Merrick confidence will be the way his attacking players gelled after going down 2-0 against Sydney. Danny Allsopp and Archie Thompson worked extremely hard, creating plenty of chances, while Nick Ward and Ney Fabiano were able to provide goals of the bench.

After Melbourne's jittery start, Kevin Muscat reacquainted himself in defence with style, while Sebastian Ryall again proved what a talented young player he is with his performance.

Grant Brebner and Jose Luis Lopez are back in an extended squad for this match with some tough decisions to be made at the selection table this week.

Like Melbourne, the next few weeks will be very important for Queensland with matches against Central Coast and Adelaide to follow. The Roar have made significant progress in the last month, led by Sergio van Dijk and need to continue in that form if they are to play a serious part in the post-season.

The Roar boast just one win this season over teams currently in the top four and Frank Farina will want at least one big scalp in the run home to boost his players' confidence. Veteran hard man Danny Tiatto is back from suspension while Ben Griffin has been included. Chris Grossman and Tim Smits make way.

Melbourne Victory: 1.Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (c), 3.Michael THWAITE, 5.Sebastian RYALL, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 9.Danny ALLSOPP, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 14.Billy CELESKI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Jose Luis LOPEZ, 19.Evan BERGER, 20.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 22.Nick WARD. *two to be omitted

In: 8.Grant BREBNER, 17.Jose Luis LOPEZ

Out: Nil

Others Unavailable: Nil

Queensland Roar Squad: 1.Liam REDDY (gk), 2.Andrew PACKER, 3.Luke DEVERE, 4.Craig MOORE (c), 5.Josh McCLOUGHAN, 7.Michael ZULLO, 8.Massimo MURDOCCA, 9.Sergio VAN DIJK, 12.Tahj MINNIECON, 14.Ben GRIFFIN, 15.Matthew McKAY, 17.Mitch NICHOLS, 18. Danny TIATTO, 20.Griffin McMASTER (gk), 21.Tommy OAR.

In: Ben GRIFFIN (promoted), Danny TIATTO (returns from suspension).

Out: Tim SMITS (omitted), Chris GROSSMAN (omitted).

Others Unavailable: REINALDO (groin injury), Isaka Cernak (knee injury), Charlie MILLER (hernia).