Venue – ANZ Homebush Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park, Sydney, Australia
Date – Saturday, 8 April 2017
Time – 7:50PM (Local) (7:50PM (AEST))
Western Sydney Wanderers have the top four in their sights while Melbourne Victory need to arrest a mini-slump before the Finals Series.
These two A-League super-powers collide in a Saturday night sizzler in Sydney!
It’s a side with the wind in its sails against one which has become temporarily becalmed.
Western Sydney Wanderers – fresh from a third win on the bounce last weekend – welcome Melbourne Victory, who have lost three of their last four games and failed to score in any of those defeats.
Suspension has also robbed Victory boss Kevin Muscat of two key defenders, with Alan Baro and Jason Geria both unavailable after red and yellow cards respectively last Sunday.
Meantime, Tony Popovic knows a win will guarantee his side their place in the Finals Series and allow them to make a charge for the top four in the last weekend of the regular season.
Melbourne can still be theoretically run down by Brisbane in the race for second, but a point here will lock them into the top two.
They’ll also take heart from back-to-back 3-0 wins in their two previous clashes with Western Sydney this season.
* Melbourne Victory have won their last three games against the Wanderers, keeping a clean sheet on each occasion and scoring a total of eight goals across that span.
* Each of the last three times the Wanderers have hosted the Victory, one team has finished the game with a clean sheet, but only once in that span has that team been Western Sydney.
* Western Sydney Wanderers are undefeated in their last four home games (W3, D1), including 3-1 victories in each of their last two such games.
* There have been five goals scored and five clean sheets in Melbourne Victory’s last four games away from home, though Victory have kept just two of those clean sheets.
* The Wanderers have conceded just 33% of their goals in the first half of games this season, the lowest percentage of any team in the competition.
* Melbourne Victory have conceded just two first-half goals when playing away this season, fewer than any other team in the competition.
* Brendon Santalab has scored a goal with every 22 touches of the ball this season, the most frequent of any player to have played more than six games this season.
Western Sydney will welcome back Brendon Santalab with open arms after the evergreen striker was suspended for last weekend’s visit to Newcastle.
While Wanderers comfortably got the job done (and may have uncovered a new goalscoring star in centre-back Robbie Cornthwaite!), ‘Santa’ has been the main man this season, scoring 14 goals, including a hat-trick and three braces.
Mitch Nichols is also in line to return against the side he played for in the 2013/14 Hyundai A-League season, while imports Jumpei Kuzukami and Nico Martinez continue to flourish with prolonged stints in the starting side.
But it’ll be all eyes on Victory’s master marksman Besart Berisha, who needs just one more goal to become the first player to score 100 times in the Hyundai A-League.
Berisha was starved of opportunities against Wellington on Sunday, but history would suggest the milestone could fall on Saturday; he’s scored six times in his last six games against Wanderers, including a hat-trick when they last met.
Western Sydney have conceded just two goals in their last four games and will need all of that defensive steel (and some) to repel a highly-motivated Berisha and his support cast of Marco Rojas, James Troisi and Fahid Ben Khalfallah.
Robbie Cornthwaite wore the captain’s armband against Newcastle last weekend and celebrated by scoring a brace.
The immensely popular Wanderers defender had scored just four goals in 118 previous Hyundai A-League games!
FORM LINES (last five games)
Western Sydney: LDWWW
Melbourne Victory: WLWLL
TEAM SHEETS –
Western Sydney Wanderers FC squad:
1.Jerrad TYSON (gk), 2.Shannon COLE, 3.Jack CLISBY, 5.Brendan HAMILL, 6.Mitch NICHOLS, 7.Steven LUSTICA, 8.DIMAS (c), 10.Nicolás MARTÍNEZ, 11.Brendon SANTALAB, 12.Scott NEVILLE, 14.Jumpei KUSUKAMI, 15.Kearyn BACCUS, 16.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 18.Robert CORNTHWAITE, 20.Vedran JANJETOVIC (gk), 22.Jonathan ASPROPOTAMITIS, 23.Lachlan SCOTT, 24.Terry ANTONIS
**two to be omitted**
6.Mitch NICHOLS (promoted), 7.Steven LUSTICA (promoted), 11.Brendon SANTALAB (returns from suspension)
29.Ryan GRIFFITHS (not selected)
Jacob MELLING (back – indefinite)
Melbourne Victory squad:
4.Nick ANSELL, 5.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Marco ROJAS, 8.Besart BERISHA, 10.James TROISI, 11.Mitch AUSTIN, 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 17.James DONACHIE, 19.George HOWARD, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (gk), 21.Carl VALERI (c), 22.Stefan NIGRO, 23.Jai INGHAM, 32.Cameron MCGILP, 35.Josh HOPE, 40.Matt ACTON (gk)
**two to be omitted**
19.George HOWARD (promoted), 22.Stefan NIGRO (promoted), 32.Cameron MCGILP (promoted), 35.Josh HOPE (promoted)
2.Jason GERIA (suspended – 1 match), 15.Alan BARO (suspended – 1 match)
6.Avram PAPADOPOULOS (not selected), 22.Thomas BROICH (not selected) Unavailable: 4.Daniel BOWLES (knee – season), 11.Tommy OAR (hamstring – 1 week), 17.Matt MCKAY (knee – 4 weeks), 24.Connor O’TOOLE (ankle – 2 weeks)
PREDICTION – Western Sydney Wanderers 2 Melbourne Victory 2