Preview: Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC

It's one of the matches of the season with top-placed Melbourne taking on third-placed Sydney.

Date: Saturday October 25 Kick-off: 7:00pm AEST Venue: Telstra Dome, Melbourne Curtain raiser: Melbourne Victory Women v Central Coast Mariners Women - 4pm

TV and Radio: Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 2 and Sky Sport 3. Hyundai A-League club radio broadcast partner is SEN (Melbourne) 1116AM

Merchandise Bourke Street Footbridge Inside Gate 5 Aisle 34/35 Inside Gate 7 Aisle 23 Inside Gate 1 Aisle 2

Head-to-head 10 A-League meetings: Melbourne Victory - 4 wins, Sydney FC - 1 win, Draws - 5

Previous meeting Sydney FC 0, Melbourne Victory 0, Round 1, 2008

Past five rounds Melbourne: Round 4: Melbourne Victory 1, Adelaide United 0, Telstra Dome Round 5: Central Coast Mariners 2, Melbourne Victory 2, Central Coast Stadium Round 6: Melbourne Victory 0, Queensland Roar 2, Telstra Dome Round 7: Melbourne Victory 4, Perth Glory 0, Telstra Dome Round 8: Newcastle Jets 1, Melbourne Victory 0, EnergyAustralia Stadium

Sydney: Round 4: Newcastle Jets 0, Sydney FC 0, EnergyAustralia Stadium. Round 5: Sydney FC 3, Adelaide United 0, Sydney Football Stadium Round 6: Wellington Phoenix 2, Sydney FC 1, Westpac Stadium Round 7: Sydney FC 1, Queensland Roar 1, Sydney Football Stadium Round 8: Perth Glory 2, Sydney FC 1, Members Equity Stadium

Analysis

It's one of the matches of the season with top-placed Melbourne taking on third-placed Sydney with the Victory knowing that a loss will see them overtaken on the ladder by not only Sydney but also possibly Adelaide - which splits these two teams and sits equal top with Melbourne with Sydney a further two points back.

But for two teams widely tipped to play off in this year's grand final, both Sydney and Melbourne go into this game under pressure in a match expected to draw possibly the biggest crowd for a home and away match this season.

The Victory suffered a shock 1-0 loss to Newcastle last week and copped their fourth red card in just eight matches this season with striker Archie Thompson sent off for swearing at the referee and he will now sit out the next two matches.

But Sydney have even more problems and not only have they won just once in their past five meetings but they have lost two defenders in Tony Popovic (hamstring) and Iain Fyfe (suspended) while star striker Alex Brosque also remains sidelined with a hamstring injury as does Simon Colosimo with his groin problem.

With that in mind Sydney looks vulnerable against Melbourne, which has a magnificent record against its greatest rivals - losing just once in 10 matches as well as being unbeaten in all four games between the sides in Melbourne while Sydney's only win against the Victory was way back in December 2005.

The Victory will also be boosted by the return of Costa Rican international Jose Luis Lopez to both bolster the midfield and protect the defence and while Thompson is a big loss, coach Ernie Merrick will use a three-pronged strike force in his absence with Tom Pondeljak and Carlos Hernandez pushed up front to partner Daniel Allsopp.

And with Sydney's defence in particular looking vulnerable, look for those three to spearhead Melbourne to a win that will put the Victory's season back on track after last week's shock loss and ensure Merrick's team - which already has a healthy goal advantage over Adelade - stays top of the table.

Melbourne Victory Squad. 1. Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (Captain), 3.Michael THWAITE, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 9.Danny ALLSOPP, 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.

In: Jose Luis LOPEZ (return from international duty) Out: Archie THOMPSON (suspended - 2 matches). Unavailable: NEY FABIANO (suspended - 2 matches), Nathan ELASI (International Duty - 4 weeks), Sebastian RYALL (International Duty - 4 weeks).

Sydney FC squad: 1. Clint BOLTON, 5. Mitchell PRENTICE, 7. Rob MIDDLEBY, 8. Stuart MUSIALIK, 10. Steve CORICA (c), 11. Brendon SANTALAB, 12. Shannon COLE, 15. Terry MCFLYNN, 18. Adam CASEY, 19. Mark BRIDGE, 20. Ivan NECEVSKI, 21. Adam BIDDLE, 23. John ALOISI, 28. Bobby PETTA, 29. Beau BUSCH, 31. Anthony GOLEC. *One to be omitted.

In: Clint Bolton, Adam Biddle (promoted), Beau Busch (injury replacement), Anthony Golec (promoted). Out: Iain Fyfe (suspended), Tony Popovic (hamstring). Unavailable: Alex Brosque (hamstring - 1 week), Simon Colosimo (groin - 6 weeks), Mike Enfield (knee - indefinite), Jacob Timpano (ankle - 4 weeks), Nik Tsattalios (international duty).

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.