Melbourne Victory’s Liberty A-League side will be looking to keep the dream of a three-peat alive on Saturday afternoon as they face Melbourne City in the 3v4 Semi Final.
Jeff Hopkins side will once again go into the post-season as the perennial underdogs, a tag that they have bestowed upon themselves over the past three seasons in the Finals Series.
After another heart-stopping final round of the season, Victory secured their spot in the Finals by goal difference over Canberra United and will come up against a City side they dismantled in March.
All sides head into the Finals off an international break which has allowed Hopkins side to rest, recover and fine-tune their game ahead of what could be a historic three weeks for the Club. Victory will have to do it the hard way, playing away in all of their remaining games if they are to continue their Championship-winning run, a feat that’s not too unusual for Hopkins side.
Kiwi defender Claudia Bunge was the only international away from the side during the break, representing New Zealand in friendlies against Nigeria and Iceland, and returns for the contest fit and firing to continue her vital role at center back alongside captain, Kayla Morrison.
The Derby atmosphere often brings out the best in Hopkins’ side, unbeaten in four of their last five against City and their last Finals match-up, seeing Victory progress to the Grand Final last season with a 3-1 win at AAMI Park that saw Melina Ayres, Lia Privitelli and Bunge on the scoresheet.
Ayres has been the key to Victory’s success this season with the sharpshooter finding the back of the net nine times in the campaign and has been on the scoresheet in four of the last five games for Victory in a run that has seen Hopkins’ side unbeaten in their last seven matches.
City’s run into the Finals series has been less than ideal. They are winless in their last four contests and have only won one match in their last seven in the league, qualifying for the Finals series based purely on their early season form. The side has seen the return of Matildas forward, Holly McNamara from injury over the past month while their main attacking threats, Rhianna Pollicina and Hannah Wilkinson, have found the back of the net in their last two contests.
Despite qualifying for the Finals as the lowest side, Victory will go into this week’s contest as the form team between the sides and will look to continue their unbeaten run to reach the Preliminary Final where they will face the loser of Western United and Sydney FC in the major Semi Final.
Melbourne Victory squad
1.Casey DUMONT, 2. Tiffany ELIADIS, 3.Claudia BUNGE, 5.Jessika NASH, 6.Beattie GOAD, 7.Gema SIMON, 8.Alana MURPHY, 9.Catherine ZIMMERMAN, 11.Natalie TATHEM, 14.Melina AYRES, 15.Amy JACKSON, 16.Paige ZOIS, 17.Maja MARKOVSKI 18.Kayla MORRISON, 19.Lia PRIVITELLI, 20.Miranda TEMPLEMAN, 22.Ava BRIEDIS, 23.Emily KOS, 27.Rosie CURTIS
In: 23.Emily KOS (promoted), 27.Rosie CURTIS (promoted)
Unavailable: 21.Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT (injured)
Liberty A-League – 3v4 Semi Final
Melbourne City v Melbourne Victory
Saturday 15 April
Kick-off: 3.00pm (AEST)
Casey Fields, Cranbourne West