Preview: Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory
Melbourne Victory's prospects of hosting the 2009-10 Hyundai A-League Grand Final are in its own hands with the defending champion taking a 2-1 advantage into the second leg of its major semi-final against Sydney FC.
Date: Sunday March 7 Kick-off: 5:00pm AEDT Venue: Sydney Football Stadium
Head-to-head Played 16: Melbourne Victory 6, Sydney FC 4, Draws 6
Previous Meeting Melbourne Victory 2, Sydney FC 1,February 2010, Etihad Stadium
Past five matches: Melbourne Victory: Round 19: Melbourne Victory 4, Wellington Phoenix 0, Etihad Stadium Round 25: Gold Coast United 1, Melbourne Victory 0, Skilled Park Round 26: Melbourne Victory 2, North Queensland Fury 0, Etihad Stadium Round 27: Sydney FC 2, Melbourne Victory 0, Sydney Football Stadium MSF - 1st Leg: Melbourne Victory 2, Sydney FC 1, Etihad Stadium
Sydney FC: Round 24: Newcastle Jets 1, Sydney FC 3, Energy Australia Stadium Round 25: Brisbane Roar 1, Sydney FC 0, Suncorp Stadium Round 26: Sydney FC 3, Perth Glory 2, Sydney Football Stadium Round 27: Sydney FC 2, Melbourne Victory 0, Sydney Football Stadium MSF - 1st Leg: Melbourne Victory 2, Sydney FC 1, Etihad Stadium
Analysis: Melbourne Victory's prospects of hosting the 2009-10 Hyundai A-League Grand Final are in its own hands with the defending champion taking a 2-1 advantage into the second leg of its major semi-final against Sydney FC.
However, despite having a strong hold on the tie, Melbourne will take nothing for granted when it travels to Sydney for Sunday's second leg. It knows how hard it is to win in Sydney having not tasted success away to the Sky Blues since 2007.
While a draw would be enough to progress directly through to the Hyundai A-League Grand Final and also book an Asian Champions League spot for 2011, Melbourne is adamant it won't change its usual attacking style of play and play it safe.
Even with the possibility that key strike pair Archie Thompson and Robbie Kruse, who will be given until matchday to prove their fitness, may be absent along with the suspended Nik Mrdja, Melbourne will look to control the game through its attacking play, rather than sitting back and absorbing the pressure.
One goal to Sydney will change the whole nature of the tie and it would mean that the hosts would hold the advantage and Melbourne would need to chase the game. However, an early goal to Melbourne will leave Sydney needing two in reply to force it to extra time.
With Kruse and Thompson on the cusp of returning from injury, coach Ernie Merrick has kept his selection options open, including young attacking pair Nathan Elasi and Mate Dugandzic. Queries remain over the availability of Evan Berger (ankle) and Surat Sukha (returning from international duties).
Sydney has a few injury worries itself, with Shannon Cole pulling up sore from his Socceroos debut on Wednesday night, while Steve Corica remains sidelined. Mark Bridge, who scored two goals against Melbourne earlier in the season, is likely to be back on the bench after missing five weeks with a toe injury while former Victory defender Sebastian Ryall is also included.
The first leg success from Melbourne was the first over Sydney in four games so far this season. In fact, Melbourne hadn't scored against Sydney - which boasts the best defensive record in the league - in the three regular season matches.
Melbourne, minus its first-choice strike force, broke down Sydney through rapid ball movement in the first leg. While it wasn't what you call route one football, it was certainly a direct approach to attacking football and it found Sydney wanting.
The only negative was that John Aloisi's shot deflected into the goal, allowing Sydney back into the tie. However, Melbourne's defence did an excellent job after Mrdja was sent off, holding strong for 19 minutes. Merrick said post-match that his team can 'park the bus' as well as any other team, but chooses not to. Expect that philosophy to continue in a massive match on Sunday.
Sydney FC squad: 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 2. Sebastian RYALL 3. Stephan KELLER, 4.Simon COLOSIMO, 5. Hayden FOXE, 6. Karol KISEL, 7. Brendan GAN, 8. Stuart MUSIALIK, 9. John ALOISI (c), 12. Shannon COLE, 13. Antony GOLEC,14. Alex BROSQUE, 15. Terry MCFLYNN, 16. Chris PAYNE,19. Mark BRIDGE, 20. Ivan NECEVSKI, 22. Sung-Hwan BYUN *one to be omitted*
In: Mark BRIDGE, Sebastian RYALL
Out: Sam MUNRO, Iain RAMSAY
Unavailable: Kofi DANNING (knee - season), Matthew JURMAN (foot - season), Steve Corica (hamstring - season), Ryhan GRANT (Ankle - season), Adam CASEY (Hamstring - indefinite)
Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (c), 3.Mate DUGANDZIC, 5.Surat SUKHA, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 8.Grant BREBNER, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.Marvin ANGULO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 13.Nathan ELASI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Matthew FOSCHINI, 19. Evan BERGER, 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 21.Robbie KRUSE, 22.Nick WARD, 23.Adrian LEIJER, 25.Aziz BEHICH *Three to be omitted*
In: Mate DUGANDZIC (promoted), Nathan ELASI (promoted), Robbie KRUSE (returns from injury), Archie THOMPSON (returns from injury)
Out: Nik MRDJA (suspended, 2 matches)
Unavailable: Billy CELESKI (knee, season), Matthew KEMP (knee, season)