Monday, November 4, 2013

Melbourne Victory vs. Wellington Phoenix

Melbourne Victory vs. Wellington Phoenix November4/2013
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Melbourne Victory confirmed earlier this week that Kevin Muscat will follow where Ange Postecoglou left off.

The choice comes as no surprise, seeing that Muscat has been assistant since 2011 and spent 18 months under the tutelage of the new Socceroos boss.

The questions are now on Muscat and his credentials: does he have the tactical nous to switch things if they go wrong? Does he have the motivation to fire up the players when the chips are down?

Muscat is a passionate person, but he is aware of the mammoth task that lies ahead of him, labelling the Victory a “beast” to manage.

So it seems fitting that Muscat will be facing off against the coach that made him such a successful clog in early Victory days. Ernie Merrick led the Victory to two titles and three grand finals, but left in 2011 after a disappointing campaign.

He’s back now with the Phoenix, who despite early predictions have risen to a few challenges this season. They were unlucky to lose to Brisbane in Round One, followed that performance with a draw to the Wanderers at Parramatta and if it were not for some wayward shooting, would have defeated the Jets.

The team is slowly becoming a typical Merrick outfit: tight in defence, and pushing forward with a possession-based game. It’s a far cry from the counter-attacking defensive mindset of previous boss Ricki Herbert.

Key Battle

Mark Milligan v Carlos Hernandez.

The Victory know all about the Costa Rican playmaker. For five seasons, he was chief-creator for the Victory, but he’s back to haunt them now. Hernandez has made an instant impact on his return to the league, and when he clicks, so does the Phoenix.

The question on who to curve his abilities will rest on Victory Captain, Mark Milligan. The defensive midfielder is both destroyer and creator for the Victory, so it will come down to him to stop Hernandez having an influence on proceedings. The Phoenix’s talisman will also need to remember his defensive duties and try to curb the Victory’s key midfielder.

Team News

With a full squad at his disposal, the likelihood is that Muscat won’t change a winning formula, or the customary 4-2-2-2 formation that is part of the team’s structure. The return of marquee signing Pablo Contreras will raise questions of who will be omitted out of centre-back duo Nick Ansell and Adrian Leijer in the starting XI.

On the other hand, Merrick has admitted that his decision to play with three forwards in the last two games has contributed to the Phoenix’s slow starts.

“We can’t play with that many strikers in this team and I think I’ve learned my lesson now,” Merrick said.

“Defensively we did fine in the midfield, but there was no progression forward – there was no transition from the midfield to the strikers.”

Merrick isn’t known for making the same mistake three times, which means he will change the team for this week’s clash. The question of who will be dropped from the line-up is unknown.

Last Meeting

Wellington Phoenix 2 Melbourne Victory 3

It was the final round of the year, with Victory looking to confirmed third place and the Phoenix hoping to get off the bottom of the table after a terrible season. The Melbourne side went up 3-0, thanks to a double by Marco Rojas and Marcos Flores. But the home side provided a grandstand finish with two late goals by Jeremy Brockie that had the Victory hanging on for dear life in the dying stages of he match.

The Prediction:

Melbourne Victory 2 Wellington Phoenix 0

The Phoenix will be looking to spoil the party, and they are due for a win soon. Although they appear an improved outfit, the hosts will have too much quality for their opponents. The Victory are in a decent patch of form and on a special Monday night match in front of their partisan fans, they will be extremely confident of grabbing the three points.

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