Preview: Melbourne Victory v Brisbane Roar

Brisbane may be runaway leaders of the A-League at the moment, but Victory remain the only team to have beaten them this year.

<Date: Friday December 3
Kick-off: 8:00pm
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Television: Live and exclusive on Fox Sports 1 from 7:30pm (AEDT).
Match Centre:

Played 17: Wins: Melbourne Victory 10, Brisbane Roar 5, Draws: 2

Previous Meeting
Brisbane Roar 2, Melbourne Victory 1, Suncorp Stadium, October 2010

Why we don’t like ’em
Brisbane may be runaway leaders of the A-League at the moment, but Victory remain the only team to have beaten them this year. That match exploded into life in the second half, when Melbourne scored three goals, including an audacious reverse nutmeg from Ricardinho. Since then Brisbane beat Melbourne 2-1 at Suncorp Stadium in October.

The most memorable match between these two was a 3-3 draw early last season, where Brisbane twice led by two goals but were pegged back in a spectacular game. There are a couple of players coming up against their old teams. Melbourne striker Robbie Kruse previously played for Brisbane, while Michael Theoklitos, the Roar keeper, won two titles with Melbourne.

Past five matches:
Melbourne Victory:
Wellington Phoenix 2, Melbourne Victory 2, Westpac Stadium
Melbourne Victory 2, Central Coast Mariners 2, AAMI Park
Perth Glory 3, Melbourne Victory 1, nib Stadium
Melbourne Victory 0, Gold Coast United 1, Etihad Stadium
Melbourne Victory 2, Adelaide United 1, Etihad Stadium

Brisbane Roar:
Central Coast Mariners 1, Brisbane Roar 5, Bluetongue Stadium
Brisbane Roar 3, Perth Glory 2, Suncorp Stadium
Brisbane Roar 1, North Queensland 1, Suncorp Stadium
Newcastle Jets 1, Brisbane Roar 1, EnergyAustralia Stadium
Melbourne Heart 1, Brisbane Roar 2, AAMI Park

Decisions for Ernie
The absence of Tom Pondeljak (injury) and Adrian Leijer (suspension) has paved the way for some changes to the Victory’s set-up with the likelihood that Merrick could opt for a back four, including Matthew Kemp, for his first game since a knee reconstruction, and Surat Sukha. Pondeljak’s injury could possibly open the door for Geoff Kellaway to return to the bench.

Behind Enemy Lines
Brisbane will be without midfielder Massimo Murdocca this match, while Luke Brattan has been included in the squad. Henrique and Shane Stefanutto remain sidelined.

Our Hero
Archie Thompson hit form last week with his first goal of the season against Wellington. An in-form Thompson means an in-form Victory and there is no doubt he will be Victory’s most important player over the remainder of the season.

Danger Man
Thomas Broich has been a revelation for the Roar this season, setting up countless goals and epitomising the leaders’ approach to their game this season, If Melbourne stop the German’s marauding runs down the wing, then they are likely to get the required result.

Why we will win
There is no greater challenge than taking on Brisbane Roar at the moment. They have put together a record breaking run of 14 games without defeat and have played some fantastic football. They are committed to a free flowing passing game with plenty of flair and undoubtedly they have been not only the best side in it this season, but the most entertaining as well.

So how do Melbourne, who by their own admission have struggled to put consistent performances together this season, break the Roar mystique? Well they have done it before this season, defeating then 3-0 at AAMI Park in September. What they did in that game was completely frustrate Brisbane by refusing to give them any space. The first half was ugly football and when Brisbane tried to pass their way into form in the second half, Melbourne ramped up the pressure and created three goals from turnovers in dangerous positions.

That approach will be crucial to Melbourne’s prospects again this time around. If Brisbane’s midfield is not allowed to have any space on which to work their clever inter-passing, they will rely on the defenders to get involved. Thompson, Kruse, Hernandez and co must pressure them on the ball and make the most of their chances on the break.

Melbourne Victory FC squad: 1.Michael PETKOVIC (gk), 2. Kevin MUSCAT (c), 3. Mate DUGANDZIC, 4. Petar FRANJIC, 5. Surat SUKHA, 6. Leigh BROXHAM, 7. Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 10. Archie THOMPSON, 11.Marvin ANGULO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 13. Diogo FERREIRA, 14. Billy CELESKI, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 19. Evan BERGER, 20.Sebastian MATTEI (gk), 21. Robbie KRUSE 27. Geoff KELLAWAY
*three to be omitted*

In: Geoff KELLAWAY (promoted), Matthew KEMP (returns from injury), Surat SUKHA (promoted), Petar FRANJIC (promoted).
Out: Adrian LEIJER (susp.) Tom PONDELJAK (back – 1 week)
Unavailable: RICARDINHO (knee – 3 weeks)

Brisbane Roar FC squad: 1. Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2. Matt SMITH, 3. Luke DEVERE, 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 6. Erik PAARTALU, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 9. Jean Carlos SOLORZANO, 11. REINALDO, 12. Matt MUNDY, 15 Matt McKAY (c) 17. Mitch NICHOLS, 18. Luke BRATTAN, 20. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 22. Thomas BROICH, 23. Milan SUSAK

In: 18. Luke BRATTAN (promoted)
Out: 8. Massimo MURDOCCA (groin – 1 week)
Unavailable: 4. Shane STEFANUTTO (hamstring – 3 weeks), 10. HENRIQUE (broken arm – 4-6 weeks)