STUMBLING BLOCKMelbourne Victory were rumbling along at an ominous pace until Tuesday week ago. Travelling to New Zealand to play the Phoenix in their catch-up game, Melbourne were pumped 3-0 to end their six-game winning streak. Required to play Perth just four days later, they gave up a 1-0 lead to go down 2-1. The travel demands on the team showed last week but have they recovered physically and mentally from the experience?
RECORD PACESydney FC's start to the season has seen them become the fastest team to 40 points in A-league history! Yet to drop a game in 16 rounds, Sydney FC has won five of their last six and overall has kept 10 clean sheets.p>
THE HISTORYWhen they met back in Round xx, Melbourne Victory came out firing on all cylinders at Allianz Stadium and by rights should have put the game beyond doubt at half-time. Unable to make the most of their chances and holding a slender 1-0 lead, Sydney FC came roaring back in the second half with two goals, albeit one in controversial circumstances, to David Carney sealing the win. That was the first win for Sydney FC against the Victory in 10 games!
HOW IT PANS OUTBoth teams provide an explosive attack so expect bullets to fired early on. Victory have had a tendency to begin quickly in the majority of their games and as they did when they last played Sydney FC, expect Kevin Muscat's side to be on the front foot early on. Melbourne's attack (2.26 goals per game) is equal with Sydney's as the best in the competition while their defence is equal third-best at 1.31gpg. Their attack, while limp with just one goal in the past two games, will give the Sydney FC defence a serious workout. Blessed with attacking threats like Besart Berisha, who leads the league with 13 goals, James Troisi and Marco Rojas the Sky Blues makeshift defence, which is missing Seb Ryall through injury and Rhyan Grant (suspension) will be in for a busy night. One thing that has really helped Sydney establish an eight-point break over Melbourne in the league is their fantastic away record. They have won seven of eight on the road while conceding a mere 0.5gpg and scoring at an average of 2.62.
THE VERDICTBoth sides would have been waiting for this game for quite some time. Victory looked brilliant ever since they lost to Sydney FC but their arduous travels last week and back-to-back losses have dented the confidence about their chances. They do get back Jason Geria and Fahid Ben Khalfallah for this match which is a huge positive and their three goals a game (average) at home this season is a league best. Graham Arnold declared a few months back that he believed his side could be like Arsenal's Invincibles and go through the season unbeaten. Well, they would've been eyeing off this game some time ago and if they get through this then there's every chance they will at least finish the regular season with no losses. Their success will rely heavily on captain Alex Brosque, exciting playmaker Milos Ninkovic and the Brazilian Bobo.
THE TIP: SYDNEY FC
‘TOTAL GOALS OVER/UNDER 2.5’ OVERS
‘TIME OF FIRST GOAL SCORED’ 30-45 minutes