HECTIC SCHEDULEThree games in 14 days has derailed Kevin Muscat’s side who were looking the goods to press Sydney FC for the Premiers Plate. Now, with three straight defeats, they have Brisbane and City breathing down their necks in third and fourth spots respectively on the A-league ladder. Muscat gave his side the weekend off after playing Sydney last Thursday and that freshen up could be the tonic for the Victory as they head into another Derby.
SOMETHING MISSINGMelbourne City have some serious issues going on. On paper they are the best team in the competition but they’ve spluttered their way through the season, trading wins and losses in the past month with two draws prior to that. What’s more concerning is that their two wins have been against teams that have had 10 men, so their form since winning the FFA Cup has been below par at best. Although blessed with attacking weapons it’s their defence which has been fragile with City keeping just three clean sheets in 17 games.
THE HISTORYCity enjoyed a fruitful period of domination of four straight wins over the Victory prior to their last meeting which saw them drop a 2-1 decision after leading. The most impressive display of the season of any team in the whole league was City’s 4-1 thumping of the Victory back in Round 2. That was at this very venue and if you analyse their performances since then they haven’t come anywhere near that night. There is a reason why the Melbourne Derby is one of the most anticipated on the calendar and a look at previous results tells you why. A whopping 3.83 goals have been scored on average between the teams in their past six clashes!
THE VERDICTThis will be the right stage for both Melbourne sides to work their way out of a funk. Victory’s extended rest period over the weekend might be the tipping point which gives them the advantage here. Muscat’s side started the season slowly but have got better as the season has gone on barring the last three weeks. City, on the other hand, have gone the opposite direction have begun brilliantly but tapered off in the past two months. Victory will have to do without Jason Donachie but Nick Ansell makes a handy replacement. The way City dismantled Victory at this ground earlier in the season suggests they may have a liking for Etihad so you cannot discount a big return to form here. Blessed with natural goalscorers including Socceroo Tim Cahill, who has a tendency to score in Derbys with goals in both matches against Victory in the league this season, City cannot be underestimated. What we have found is that City tend to play far more flamboyant football against the better teams in the competition. The primary reason for that is because they don’t sit back and try to stifle City but the smaller sides with weaker squads play on the counter. It’s not in Victory’s DNA to sit back and with both goalies likely to be kept busy all night, this game will go right down to the wire. There’s only been one draw in the past six Derbys but we think that a share of the points is on the offing here.
THE TIP: Draw
TOTAL GOALS OVER/UNDER 2.5: Overs
1ST GOALSCORER: Tim Cahill