Preview: Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC
Victory coach Ernie Merrick said that he and the players can't wait to get back to Melbourne and familiar surrounds.
Date: Saturday December 27 Kick-off: 7pm (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: Melbourne Victory - 4 wins, Sydney FC - 2 wins, Draws - 5
Previous meeting Melbourne Victory 0, Sydney FC 2, Round 9, 2008
Past five rounds Melbourne: Round 11: Queensland Roar 0, Melbourne Victory 1, Suncorp Stadium 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
Sydney FC: Round 12: Adelaide United 2, Sydney FC 0, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 13: Sydney FC 1, Queensland Roar 1, Sydney Football Stadium Round 14: Newcastle Jets 1, Sydney FC 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 15: Central Coast Mariners 2, Sydney FC 1, Bluetongue Stadium Round 16: Sydney FC 1, Perth Glory 4, Sydney Football Stadium
Victory coach Ernie Merrick said after last week's loss in Newcastle - the club's third in as many games on the road - that he and the players can't wait to get back to Melbourne and familiar surrounds.
They get their wish not only this week but for five of the final six matches of the regular season, starting with their arch enemy Sydney FC, which is coming off consecutive losses of its own, including Sunday's 4-1 thrashing from Perth.
Victory has slipped to third on the Hyundai A-League ladder, behind Queensland Roar on goal difference and a point adrift of Adelaide United, but of course also has a game in hand after its recent clash with the Reds had to be postponed because of their participation in the FIFA Club World Cup.
Most worrying for Merrick is that the club has conceded nine goals in its past three losses but at least encouragingly has still also been finding the back of the net itself with four goals in that period.
With Grant Brebner suspended for another match, Merrick has added Sebastian Ryall and Leigh Broxham to the squad that travelled to EnergyAustralia Stadium, with no omissions as yet, while John Kosmina has made no changes to the squad that went down to the Glory.
Kosmina has plenty of worries of his own, with Adam Casey (quad), Simon Colosimo (groin), Terry McFlynn (knee), Mitchell Prentice (groin) and Brendon Santalab (shoulder) among those unavailable and striker John Aloisi struggling for form, as evidenced by the two relatively easy chances he squandered on Sunday.
While there have been five draws in the 11 meetings between the teams, Victory has won four of those clashes and Sydney FC only two, although one of those was in the most recent meeting between these sides, at Telstra Dome in late October.
With Victory third and Sydney FC sitting sixth but just four points adrift of top spot, both teams go into this clash desperate for the three points ahead of what is shaping as an extremely tight final six weeks of the season.
While neither side has been in great form expect Victory to prevail here as it welcomes its return to Telstra Dome, where a bumper crowd is sure to give the home players a big boost.
Melbourne Victory Squad: 1. Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2. Kevin MUSCAT (c), 3. Michael THWAITE, 5. Sebastian RYALL, 7. Matthew KEMP, 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, 18. Leigh BROXHAM, 19. Evan BERGER, 20. Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 22. Nick WARD *One to be omitted
In: Sebastian RYALL (promoted), Leigh BROXHAM (promoted) Out: Nil Unavailable: Grant BREBNER (suspended - 1 week)
Sydney FC squad: 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 2. Iain FYFE, 7. Rob MIDDLEBY, 8. Stuart MUSIALIK, 10. Steve CORICA (c), 12. Shannon COLE, 14. Alex BROSQUE, 19. Mark BRIDGE, 20. Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 23. John ALOISI, 28. Bobby PETTA, 29. Beau BUSCH, 31. Antony GOLEC, 32. Brendan GAN, 34. Rhyan GRANT
In: Nil Out: Nil Unavailable: 18. Adam CASEY (quadricep - 2 weeks), 4. Simon COLOSIMO (groin - 1 week), 22. Mike ENFIELD (knee - indefinite), 15. Terry McFLYNN (knee - 1 week), 5. Mitchell PRENTICE (groin - 1 week), 11. Brendon SANTALAB (shoulder - 3 weeks)
Victory memberships for the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season are currently available from the Victory Shop, 236 Swan Street, Richmond, by calling 1300 GO MVFC or online by clicking here.