The second installment of the Melbourne Derby for the A-league season is sure to provide plenty of fireworks if the first clash between the sides is anything to go on.
Back in Round 2 it was all Melbourne City who dominated their crosstown rivals in a 4-1 thumping at Etihad Stadium. Ripped apart that day, Victory have improved dramatically and suffered just the one defeat since then (to Sydney FC) to find themselves a point behind City having played a game less.
Melbourne City blew the chance to close the gap on Sydney FC at the top of the table after conceding a late penalty to the Sky Blues and eventually having to share the points. It was City’s third 1-1 draw in the past month.
City has beaten Victory twice this season – once in the league and the other in the FFA Cup.
When you take the league stats only into consideration, City has won two of the last three games played between the sides with the other result being a draw. Prior to this mini run of success against their neighbours, City lost three straight with two of those by 3-0 score lines.
Melbourne City has the team on paper to trouble any side in the competition, however, the glamour club have stumbled a bit of late. Their only success in the Aleague in the past month has been a 2-1 result against Newcastle while they’ve experienced 1-1 draws against Western Sydney, Brisbane and Sydney FC. Of course during that run they did beat Sydney 1-0 in the FFA Cup Final. That aside, they haven’t exactly been firing on all cylinders of late with gun striker Bruno Fornaroli scoring once in the last four games.
MUSCAT’S MEN FIRING
Melbourne Victory put on a masterclass of how to take your chances against the Wanderers last week which netted their fourth win in the past six games. Effectively on the back foot for most of the match as keeper Lawrence Thomas kept Western Sydney at bay with a number of fantastic saves, Victory then went up the other end on just a handful of occasions and managed to put three in the back of the net. Striker Besart Berisha netted a hat-trick in a timely return to form for the Albanian which could spell trouble for Victory’s defenders as he has a proven record against City having scored in four straight Derbys at one stage but he hasn’t registered in the last three games.
HOW IT PANS OUT
This will depend on what tactics Muscat wants to employ.
Last week his side were happy to defend and hit on the counter which paid great dividends but you can’t do that every week and get away with it.
In their two losses to City this season Melbourne Victory have been outplayed with Fernando Brandan, Tim Cahill, Luke Brattan and Bruno Fornaroli all dominating their opponents. The caveat to that is that Victory weren’t playing anywhere near as good then as they are now. Without doubt they are far more well-drilled now so will prove much harder to toss this time around.
A big key to Melbourne Victory’s chances will be the fitness of Marco Rojas who missed last week’s game with a hamstring complaint. If he returns then it bolsters the case for Melbourne Victory.
We can’t see City getting anywhere near as much space as they have been afforded against the Victory in previous outings.
City will be relying heavily on Fornaroli to keep up his fantastic strike rate in the Derby (four goals in four games) as well as the support from the home crowd. Last season they won 10 games and drew twice in 15 at the venue and this season they’ve only lost once in three appearances at the ground.
The big concern for City fans is their lack of scoring recently which sees them averaging just 1.16 goals per game in their last six league games. Compare that to Victory’s 2.66 over the same span and you can sense that the City defenders could be in for a tough night.
Victory’s 20 goals in nine appearances is only behind Sydney FC’s 21 goals in 10 games so you can see that three-time champions have been firing with deadly accuracy of late, barring the 1-1 draw against Perth a fortnight ago where they had enough chances to win three games and couldn’t solve Liam Reddy.
City has been the only real team to give Sydney FC problems but again in a game they probably could’ve won last week, they didn’t, which was the same story a week earlier against Brisbane Roar.
On that basis we are leaning towards the Victory in this.
THE TIP: MELBOURNE VICTORY
TOTAL GOALS OVER/UNDER 2.5: OVERS – in each of the last six Derbys in the Aleague the total has gone over with an average of 3.83 goals per game scored.