Preview: Melbourne Victory v Central Coast

Melbourne has surged up to second spot on the Hyundai A-League table courtesy of an excellent run which has seen it win six of its past seven.

Date: Saturday November 7
Kick-off: 7:00pm AEDT
Venue: Etihad Stadium
TV and Radio:

13 A-League meetings: Melbourne Victory – 6 wins, Central Coast – 4 wins, Draws – 3

Previous Meeting
Melbourne Victory 2, Central Coast Mariners 2, Round 1, August 2009

Past five matches:
Melbourne Victory:
Round 9: Melbourne Victory 2, Brisbane Roar 1, Etihad Stadium
Round 10: Melbourne Victory 0, Sydney FC 3, Etihad Stadium
Round 11: Newcastle Jets 1, Melbourne Victory 3, EnergyAustralia Stadium
Round 12: Melbourne Victory 3, Adelaide United 1, Etihad Stadium
Round 13: Perth Glory 1, Melbourne Victory 2, ME Bank Stadium

Central Coast:
Round 9: Sydney FC 1, Central Coast 0, Sydney Football Stadium
Round 10: Central Coast 1, North Queensland Fury 1, Bluetongue Stadium
Round 11: Brisbane Roar 0, Central Coast 3, Suncorp Stadium
Round 12: Newcastle Jets 2, Central Coast 1, EnergyAustralia Stadium
Round 13: Central Coast Mariners 0, Adelaide United 0, Canberra Stadium

Melbourne has surged up to second spot on the Hyundai A-League table courtesy of an excellent run which has seen it win six of its past seven. But looming this week is the side which stunned the Victory 2-0 at home in the season-opener and while talk of payback has been put on the backburner, there is a sense of unfinished business with the Mariners after that match.

In that clash, Central Coast snatched a shock 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Matt Simon and Michael McGlinchey and never looked like letting Melbourne back into the contest. Given the way in which the Mariners have defended since this season, letting in only eight goals in 13 games, the Victory never really had a hope of getting back into it.

But much has changed in the three months that have elapsed since that game and the Melbourne side which fronts up this time around is a vastly different outfit. Archie Thompson and Carlos Hernandez are in great form, Mate Dugandzic has added a real sense of verve to the side, while the defence is looking as solid as it has all year.

The past three matches have seen three good wins over Newcastle, Adelaide and Perth, all of which had periods where the opposition dominated. The key aspect for Melbourne has been the fact that it has been able to weather those periods and go on to record victories. Both goalkeeper Glen Moss and defender Rody Vargas said this week that they are not concerned about the lack of clean sheets – Melbourne has had just two for the year – so long as they are getting the three points.

Coach Ernie Merrick has called three players back from injury this week, Evan Berger, Robbie Kruse and Surat Sukha. Fitting them into the side could be the hard part, with so many players in form.

The Mariners’ recent form hasn-t been great, having won just one of their past six. Since a comprehensive 3-0 win over Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium, Lawrie McKinna’s men have battled with a 2-1 F3 Derby loss to Newcastle and a 0-0 draw against Adelaide in Canberra.

While the Mariners defence, and in particular goalkeeper Danny Vukovic, have done a great job, the strikers have been struggling, with just 13 goals in as many games. Simon has been the chief attacking weapon with four goals.

Dylan Macallister has been called into the squad along with Matthew Lewis and Andrew Clark, while Matthew Crowell is out suspended.

This will be a real contrast of styles between the team with the Hyundai A-League’s most prolific goalscoring record this year and the one with the best defence. Scoring chances are sure to be at a premium, and Merrick may opt for a more attacking formation in order to give his men up forward more support. It will come down to whether Melbourne converts the few chances which come its way.

Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (c), 3.Mate DUGANDZIC, 5.Surat SUKHA, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 13.Nathan ELASI, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Matthew FOSCHINI, 19.Evan BERGER, 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 21.Robbie KRUSE, 23.Adrian LEIJER, 27.Sutee SUKSOMKIT
*three to be omitted*

In: Evan BERGER (return from injury), Robbie KRUSE (return from injury), Surat SUKHA (return from injury)

Out: Nil

Unavailable: Marvin ANGULO (pending registration), Billy CELESKI (knee – season), Steven PACE (calf – 2 weeks), Tom PONDELJAK (calf – 2 weeks), Nick WARD (infection – 1 week)

Central Coast Mariners squad: 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 4. Pedj BOJIC, 5. Brad PORTER, 6. David D’APUZZO, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Dean HEFFERNAN, 11. Dylan MACALLISTER, 12. Matthew LEWIS, 14. Michael McGLINCHEY, 15. Andrew CLARK, 16. Nigel BOOGAARD, 17. Chris DOIG, 18. Alex WILKINSON (c), 19. Matt SIMON, 20. Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 22. Nicky TRAVIS, 23. Adam KWASNIK
*two to be omitted*

In: Dylan MACALLISTER (promoted), Matthew LEWIS (promoted), Andrew CLARK (promoted)

Out: Matthew CROWELL (suspended – 1 week)

Unavailable: Nil