They are gathering more pace as the season wears on, but getting through the derby - a fixture they have battled for success in - is the priority for Melbourne Victory
|By PAUL GOUGH
Melbourne Victory enter Saturday's third and final derby of the regular season against Melbourne Heart as not only favourites to win their crucial Week 19 clash but as the new favourites to win this season's A-League title.
Victory moved up to second on the table after last Saturday's 3-1 win over Sydney FC at a sold-out AAMI Park. And with one of their chief title rivals in Adelaide United imploding during the week - following the shock resignation of veteran coach John Kosmina - the money has really started to come for the Victory to win the this season's grand final.
Graham Arnold's Central Coast Mariners - still leading the Victory by six points at the top of the table - have been favourites all season, but are now the $3.75 second favourites to win the A-League in 2013 behind the Victory at $3.60 at Betfair.
And with Victory breaking their drought against Melbourne Heart last time the two teams met, thanks to Archie Thompson's late winner, they are firm favourites for Saturday's clash at Etihad Stadium.
However, Victory's win over Heart in their last meeting in Week 12 was only their second win against their rivals in eight attempts. The last time they met at Etihad Stadium, in the first week of the season, Heart scored a shock 2-1 win.
|Wellington Phoenix to win v Perth Glory at $2.14 at Betfair
||Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart to draw at $4.20 at Betfair|
Heart, who are desperately trying to hang on to sixth spot to qualify for the finals for the second-straight season, are also in good form - having won three of their past five matches - and could well hold Victory to a draw in this one.
The draw paying $3.60 at the TAB, $4 at sportsbet.com.au and best odds of $4.20 with Betfair.
In the other two games on Saturday, the four other teams battling Heart for the last two places in the final - the top four are pretty much set - are in action in crucial head-to-head battles.
Wellington might be in last spot on just 17 points but they are only four points behind Heart in sixth, and they have a winnable home game on Saturday against second-from-bottom Perth, who are on 19 points.
But the switch in venue for this one to football-starved Auckland could well bolster the Phoenix, who ended their four-match losing run last Sunday with a 1-1 draw against Newcastle and should be able to beat a Glory side winless in their past six games.
Meanwhile, fifth-placed Newcastle will be looking to make it three from three against eighth-placed Sydney FC this season.
However, a win for the Sky Blues would see them go above the Jets on the ladder, such is the evenness of the teams sitting from fifth to tenth in the competition.
The Jets are favourites at $2.10 for this one at sportsbet.com.au and Betfair but have lost captain Jobe Wheelhouse, who walked out during the week after being told he would not be re-signed for next season.
Wheelhouse has already been linked to Melbourne Heart, who are looking for a midfield replacement for the now retired Vince Grella.
* Note prices subject to change