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Preview: Melbourne Victory vs Sydney FC

MELvSYD2013/14 A-League Elimination Final
Melbourne Victory vs Sydney FC
Friday 18th April. 7:30pm AEST
Venue: Etihad Stadium, Melbourne.
Referee: Peter Green.
Broadcast: Live on Fox Sports 1/1HD; Delayed coverage on SBS2/HD.

It was a topsy-turvy round 27 that saw the Victory temporarily find themselves in second place, before wins to Western Sydney and Central Coast later in the weekend pushed them down to fourth. Sydney held the hopes of seventh placed Newcastle in their hands, but were eventually able to see off Perth Glory at home and sew up the last qualification spot for this year’s A-League finals.

How they got there – Melbourne Victory

Melbourne Victory defeated Wellington Phoenix 4-1 in the final round of the home-and-away season, with Archie Thompson, James Troisi, Gui Finkler, and Mark Milligan all getting on the scoresheet. Victory were momentarily in second place after the performance, but eventually settled in fourth place, and ensured the match would be played at home.

How they got there – Sydney FC

Richard Garcia scored a vital goal in stoppage time against Perth Glory on Sunday afternoon to secure fifth place and a finals berth for Sydney FC.

The statistical breakdown

This Season: Sydney 2 wins, 1 draw, Goal Difference: Sydney +6.
At Etihad Stadium: Sydney 4 wins, Melbourne 4 wins, 4 draws.
Last Match: Melbourne Victory 1-1 Sydney FC (29/03/14 at AAMI Park, Melbourne).
With Peter Green as referee: Melbourne 12 wins, 12 draws, 11 losses; Sydney 12 wins, 5 draws, 12 losses.
In finals matches:
Sydney 1 win, Melbourne 1 win, 1 draw.

Facts and Figures

  • Sydney are on a three match unbeaten streak, and have lost just 1 of their last 6 A-League matches.
  • Archie Thompson has scored 27 goals in 62 games at Etihad Stadium, more than any other A-League player.
  • Victory are undefeated at home in their last 6 matches, including A-League and Asian Champions League fixtures.
  • Sydney have not kept a clean sheet in their last 7 matches, while Melbourne have not kept one in their last 17 A-League matches.
  • Melbourne have failed to keep Sydney scoreless in their last 8 meetings (Last time was Round 1, 2011/12).
  • Last time at Etihad Stadium, Sydney smashed the Victory 5-0, with goals to Despotovic, Ryall, Carle and Del Piero (2).
  • These two teams have kept the least clean sheets of any finals teams this season (5).
  • Archie Thompson has scored more finals goals (8) than any other player in A-League history.
  • This is the 6th finals campaign for both these teams.

Injury and Suspension List

Melbourne Victory: Adrian Leijer (foot), Tom Rogic (groin).
Sydney FC: Pedj Bojic (back), Rhyan Grant (knee), Terry McFlynn (thigh).

Where Melbourne Victory have the advantage

The Attacking Shift
Victory have played some of their best attacking football in the last fortnight, exemplified by their 2-0 win over reigning ACL Champions Guangzhou Evergrande on Tuesday, and Gui Finkler’s strike against Wellington that came on the end of a 20-pass movement. This is partly due to Muscat’s tactical switch from a 4-2-2-2 in attack to a more stable 4-3-3 in defence, and further due to a greater cohesion between Victory’s forward players – making them even more damaging on the break.

James Troisi
Central to Melbourne Victory’s recent fortunes is 25-year-old Troisi, on loan from Italian side Atalanta, who finds himself in a rich vein of form coming into the A-League finals. The attacking midfielder has added an extra level of determination to his game in the last month, and his goals against Wellington and Guangzhou signal his impact cannot be underestimated.

Where Sydney FC have the advantage 

The Psychological Factor
With two wins and a draw against Melbourne, including a 5-0 thrashing the last time they met at Etihad Stadium, the Sky Blues clearly have the advantage over Victory this season. More so, Melbourne have failed to keep Sydney scoreless in their last eight meetings – the last time was back in Round 1, 2011/12 – so the Sky Blues should be coming into this game with plenty of confidence at gaining a positive result.

Nothing to Lose
An inconsistent season, fuelled by turmoil surrounding the coach’s position, and playing away to the side that just defeated the reigning ACL Champions – there is little expectation that Sydney FC will progress through this finals series. But that lack of mental pressure could suit the visitors, and they have plenty of experience in their squad to win against the odds.

Victory’s defensive instability
Despite an impressive win on Tuesday night, Victory’s defence was still exposed on a number of occasions only to be saved by Nathan Coe’s brilliant performance in goals. Injuries and suspensions have stopped Melbourne from fielding a consistent back four, and that instability has shown as they’ve failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 17 A-League matches. Coupled with Adrian Leijer’s injury on Tuesday night and Contreras’ unreliability, Sydney’s experienced players should be able to take advantage of Victory’s shaky defence.

Verdict

The Big Blue is always a tense battle and, despite Sydney’s 5-0 thumping of Melbourne the last time they played each other at Etihad Stadium, I expect this to be a much tighter affair. It could quite easily come down to one moment of brilliance from either side. However, I’m leaning towards the home side, whose rich attacking play over the last fortnight has been breathtaking, tempered only by their failure to keep a clean sheet in the A-League since December last year. Melbourne Victory 2-1 Sydney FC.

About the author

avatarJulian is a freelance writer and editor, film festival programmer, and serial podcaster.

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