Preview: Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory

Can you feel the anticipation? Season 2008/09 is about to get underway and Melbourne has whet the appetite with a magnificent success in the Pre-Season Cup. What better team to take on in the first round than Sydney, the team who most think will be the benchmark this year thanks to their cavalier recruiting in the off-season?

Date: Saturday August 16 Kick-off (local time): 7:00pm AEST Venue: Sydney Football Stadium TV and Radio: TV. Live & Exclusive Fox Sports 3 (www.foxsports.com.au) - Match broadcast commences 6.30pm AEST (6.00pm ACST, 4.30pm AWST), Sky Sports 3 (www.skytv.co.nz) - Match broadcast commences 9.00pm NZST.

Head-to-head Nine Hyundai A-League meetings: Melbourne - 4 wins, Sydney - 1 win, 4 draws

Previous Hyundai A-League meeting Sydney FC 2, Melbourne Victory 2, Round 21, January 2008

Pre-Season Cup Results Sydney Round 1: Sydney FC 2, Queensland Roar 1, Campbelltown Stadium, Saturday July 19 Round 2: Central Coast Mariners 3 Sydney FC 0, Central Coast Stadium, Sunday July 26 Round 3: Sydney FC 2, Wellington Phoenix 3, Wollongong, Saturday August 1

Melbourne: Round 1: Melbourne Victory 1 Adelaide United 2, Aurora Stadium, Sunday July 20 Round 2: Perth Glory 0 Melbourne Victory 1, Members Equity Stadium, Saturday July 26 Round 3: Newcastle Jets 0 Melbourne Victory 1, Port Macquarie, Saturday August 2 Final: Wellington Phoenix 0, Melbourne Victory 0, Wellington, Wednesday August 5 (Melbourne won 8-7 on penalties)

Analysis Can you feel the anticipation? Season 2008/09 is about to get underway and Melbourne has whet the appetite with a magnificent success in the Pre-Season Cup. What better team to take on in the first round than Sydney, the team who most think will be the benchmark this year thanks to their cavalier recruiting in the off-season?

But three of the Sky Blues' big name recruits won't play in this game, with John Aloisi still sidelined by a foot injury and former Newcastle boys Stuart Musialik and Mark Bridge not back from the Olympics in time. Considering Sydney has only beaten Melbourne once in nine Hyundai A-League meetings, there might be a few nervous thoughts about this season-opener from John Kosmina and his men.

Kosmina wasn't showing any of that, though, when earlier in the week he said his side deserved to be favourites. It's not in Ernie Merrick's nature to spruik his own side in such a fashion, but Victory's mastermind would be feeling comfortable with the team's build-up to both this match and this season.

The new recruits have fitted in a treat, with Michael Thwaite, Ney Fabiano, and 'J-Lo', Jose Luis Lopez having had three or four games to get used to their new team-mates. Kevin Muscat returns for this match with the skipper fit and ready after a pre-season hamstring injury, while 'Mr Versatile' Steve Pantalidis is fit as well. Unfortunately Nick Ward has calf issues and joins Grant Brebner and Daniel Vasilevski in the medical room for this match. The other worry is Archie Thompson, who hurt his ankle against Argentina when playing in the Olympics. Hopefully it's just a two-week break for Victory's main man up front.

Merrick has named Leigh Broxham and Billy Celeski in his squad, keeping them up his sleeve if they should arrive back from China in a refreshed enough state to play a part in this match.

Sydney has three players suspended for this match, Mitchell Prentice, Alex Brosque and Dez Giraldi, while Simon Colosimo comes in for his first match for the Sky Blues, as does exciting prospect Chris Payne. First-choice keeper Clint Bolton is fit again while Shannon Cole and Robbie Mileski have also been included.

Earlier this week, Merrick said that he wasn't worried about the travel his players had undertaken over the past four weeks. He said the four 'away' matches in the Pre-Season Cup had forged a bond among the players and they were by no means tired. As a measure of their enthusiasm, Tuesday was pegged as a day off training, but the players got together and said they wanted to get back out there. Currently, this is a team which loves playing together and there is no doubt they are ready to fire up in the opening game.

Sydney FC Squad: 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 2. Iain FYFE, 3. Nick TSATTALIOS, 4. Simon COLOSIMO, 6. Tony POPOVIC, 7. Robbie MIDDLEBY, 10. Steve CORICA, 12. Shannon COLE, 15. Terry MCFLYNN, 16. Chris PAYNE, 17. Jacob TIMPANO, 18. Adam CASEY, 20. Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 21. Adam BIDDLE, 24. Ryan WALSH, 25. Robbie MILESKI. *One to be omitted

In. Simon Colosimo (return suspension), Chris Payne (new signing), Clint Bolton (return from injury), Shannon Cole (new signing), Robbie Mileski (replacement player)

Out. John Filan (trial period ended), Chris Van Leur (trial period ended), Alex Brosque (suspended - 1 week), Mitchell Prentice (suspended - 2 weeks) and Dez Giraldi (suspended - 1 week)

Unavailable. Stuart Musialik (national team duty) Mark Bridge (national team duty), John Aloisi (foot injury - 1 week), Brendon Santalab (thigh injury - 2 weeks) and Mike Enfield (knee injury - 6 weeks)

Melbourne Victory Squad. 1.Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (Captain), 3.Michael THWAITE, 4.Steven PACE, 5.Sebastian RYALL, 6.Steve PANTELIDIS, 7.Matthew KEMP, 9.Danny ALLSOPP, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 13.Nathan ELASI, 14.Billy CELESKI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Jose Luis LOPEZ, 18.Leigh BROXHAM, 19.Evan BERGER, 20.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk).

*Three to be omitted

In. Kevin Muscat (return from injury), Steve Pantelidis (returned from injury), Billy Celeski (return from national team duty), Leigh Broxham (return from national team duty)

Out. Nick Ward (calf - 1 week)

Unavailable: Grant Brebner (groin - 2 weeks), Archie Thompson (ankle - 2 weeks), Daniel Vasilevski (hip - 4 weeks)