Friday, October 25, 2013
Melbourne Victory vs Brisbane Roar
Played: 24, Wins: Victory 10, Brisbane 8, Draws: 6
Brisbane 1-1 Victory, March 9, 2013
Past five matches:
While this game will attract plenty of attention due to the man who will be slumped in a white chair wearing Victory colours for the last time, the match deserves to be the pick of Round Three of the A-League in its own right as league-leaders Brisbane Roar take on the Big V. Melbourne Victory have been widely tipped to challenge for silverware this season and, Ange Postecoglou's imminent departure notwithstanding, the Big V should have enough quality remain in contention in 2013/14.
Friday night's clash at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne will also pit two teams against each other who love to maintain possession, and try to pass opposition sides to death. As such, the midfield battle will be critical, with the Roar's quintet of Matt McKay, Thomas Broich, Liam Miller, Ivan Franjic and Luke Brattan up against Victory's foursome; Mark Milligan, Mitch Nichols, James Troisi and Leigh Broxham.
Brisbane head coach Mike Mulvey faces one major selection dilemma with striker Besart Berisha set to miss the match with a hamstring injury. Berisha hurt his hamstring in last week's 4-0 win over Sydney FC and was replaced by Henrique, who scored. The pint-sized Brazilian will be the favourite to start up front against Victory but Mulvey may be tempted to pick Kwame Yeboah instead, as the 19-year-old scored six goals in Brisbane's last four pre-season matches.
For Postecoglou, the newly-installed Socceroos head coach is likely to hand Kosta Barbarouses his starting debut for Melbourne against the Kiwi striker's former club after the 23-year-old came off the bench in Victory's 2-2 draw with Adelaide United last week. Barbarouses will probably replace Connor Pain in Melbourne's starting XI, while Postecoglou may be tempted to pick Gui Finkler, who is still building his fitness after his knee injury from last season, to improve Victory's creativity in the final third.
The big issue:
Victory – In Postecoglou's 31 matches in charge of Melbourne, the men in navy blue and white have generally struggled to execute the 48-year-old's 4-2-2-2 striker-less formation on a consistent basis. So far this season, Victory have produced just one top half of football as they came from two goals down at half-time ast week in Adelaide to clinch a draw. With Postecoglou on the way out, can Victory prove their soon-to-be ex-coach's tactics are the way to go for the rest of the 2013/14 campaign?
Roar – Two seasons ago, Berisha won the A-League Golden Boot award with 19 goals as Brisbane were the most-prolific team in the A-League. Last season, Berisha notched 14 and the Roar finished behind five other clubs in terms of goals scored. With the 28-year-old Albanian likely to miss at least a couple of games through injury, do Brisbane have enough firepower to compensate?
The game breaker:
Matt McKay – One game into McKay's second stint with Brisbane and the former captain has already proven himself as a key player for the Roar. The 30-year-old midfielder was at his energetic best against Sydney, helping create both Henrique and Jade North's goals with his clever passing. McKay finished with a passing efficiency of 95 percent against the Sky Blues and his combination of hard-running, clever interplay and attacking vision will make him a handful for Victory's defence on Friday.
Prediction: Victory 2-1 Brisbane
Brisbane are the only team remaining in the A-League with a 100 percent record to start this season. But despite that impressive beginning, the Roar's form remains slightly hard to judge considering they needed a stoppage-time goal to overcome Wellington in the first round and barely had to try against a woeful Sydney side last week. With Berisha out, Brisbane's attack will be severely tested and Victory should have plenty of confidence after their comeback in Round Two. Add the emotional factor of Postecoglou saying farewell, plus a big home crowd, and Melbourne may just edge what promises to be a riveting contest.