Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United will kick off the A-League’s ‘Star Wars round’ when the two sides clash in the Original Rivalry on Friday night at Etihad Stadium.
Victory made themselves the headline of the last round with a 3-2 comeback win over Wellington. Kevin Muscat’s side was 2-0 down at the half time break, with two quick goals from Andrija Kaludjerovic giving the Nix the lead.
However, Victory fought back through goals from Besart Berisha and an own goal from Goran Paracki, before sealing all three points with an 86th minute goal from James Troisi.
Adelaide meanwhile had a much tougher run against the top of the table Sydney FC, but Marco Kurz’s side brought the match to the reigning champions, outplaying the Sky Blues for the bulk of the opening half, only to concede on the edge of half time through a Bobo goal.
Adelaide looked a shell of themselves for the second half and were unable to get back into the match, going down 1-0 and ending their recent streak of wins.
Key Battle – Besart Berisha vs Ersan Gulum
If anyone loves scoring against Adelaide United, it is Victory man Besart Berisha. The Kosovan forward has netted 15 times in 20 matches against the Reds across his A-League career, and with the striker still looking in top form this season – having picked up four goals in seven matches so far – Berisha will be the key factor again.
So it might come down to the experienced defender Gulum to deal with his attacking threat. The on-loan hard man has looked sharp in his six appearances for Adelaide so far and could be relied on again to deal with Berisha by either marking the forward out of the match or ensuring that he is severely reduced as a threat for the Reds.
If Gulum manages to contain Berisha, then Adelaide could have a real shot at shutting down all of Victory’s attacking avenues.
Victory welcome back Mark Milligan into the fold for this match, with the Socceroo returning from suspension, but it seems likely Milligan’s return will be the only change Muscat will make to the side that came back against Wellington last round.
Melbourne Victory Expected XI (4-2-3-1): Thomas (GK); Geria, Nigro, Deng, Williams; Valeri, Milligan; Troisi, Barbarouses, George; Berisha.
Adelaide meanwhile could line up with a vastly different side from the team that lost to Sydney last round. Both Michael Marrone and Ben Garuccio return from suspensions, while Vince Lia is expected to return to the team after being an unused substitute last round. Karim Matmour will no longer play any part for the Reds, with the Algerian departing the club midweek.
Adelaide United Expected XI (4-3-3): Izzo (GK); Marrone, Garuccio, Elsey, Gulum; Adlung, Lia, Isaias; Mileusnic, Kitto, Baba.
Victory hold a strong advantage when it comes to matches between these two sides, claiming 22 wins in the 43 matches between the two sides. Adelaide have picked up 11 wins of their own, but the Reds have found themselves greatly outscored in away matches against Victory, having conceded 45 goals while only netting 22 times.
Both sides took a share of the spoils when they last faced each other in Adelaide back in mid-October, with Victory striking late to secure a point. Berisha opened the scoring for Victory, but a brace from Lia pulled the match back in favor of the Reds. An 82nd-minute goal from Mitch Austin rescued a point for Kevin Muscat’s men in a 2-2 draw.
With Victory forcing a comeback win last round, there are questions as to whether they fell asleep at the wheel by letting Wellington take a strong lead, or whether the momentum has swung back towards them by leaving the match with all three points. For Adelaide, the question is whether their front line can fire after a toothless performance last round against Sydney. This match is one that could go either way – especially after the below-par start to the season Victory have had – but all it takes is a lapse in concentration from either side to hand all the points to the opposition.
Melbourne Victory 1 Adelaide United 1