Tony Popovic's reigning premiers and the powerhouse club will hope for maximum points to reduce Brisbane Roar's lead at the top of the A-League tableSince their last meeting, a closely fought and entertaining contest which the Wanderers shaded despite Victory dominating possession, the form of these two sides has been solid enough, but not as consistent as their respective coaches would desire. Victory have recorded convincing wins over Adelaide, Perth and the Heart and drawn away to the Mariners, with a home loss to the Jets the only real blot on their copybook. For the Wanderers, a 3-1 loss at Brisbane Roar prompted a slight dip in form which saw them draw twice in succession against the Heart and the Phoenix, before returning to winning ways with a 1-0 triumph away to the Jets and at home to Central Coast. So there is plenty to like about both of these, and Tony Popovic and Kevin Muscat will have serious designs on three points as they look to close the gap on the league-leading Roar.
When will Gui Finkler return to Victory's starting line-up? The Brazilian got another 30 minutes off the bench in the derby win over Heart, leading on from his goal-scoring cameo against Perth the previous work. The playmaker is certainly back up to the full fitness after tearing his ACL last season, and Muscat has said his challenge is now to force his way past James Troisi and Mitch Nichols, no small task given the consistent performances produced by those two so far this term. A good problem for Muscat and Victory to have.
Tomi Juric is back in business. The promising frontman could be forgiven for looking a little rusty in his first start since recovering from a knee injury, but was instead at his bustling best straight away against Central Coast, scoring a tremendous goal and giving the Mariners' defence problems throughout in Parramatta. The clamour has started again for him to be elevated to the Socceroos, and it will only continue if his performance level remains this high in the coming weeks and months.
Shinji Ono could be a potential game-breaker. The Victory's preferred 4-2-4 formation could force one of Nichols or Troisi to drop deep and interfere with the Japanese international, as holding duo Mark Milligan and Leigh Broxham are likely to have their hands full with the Wanderers' own deeper pair. If Ono is left unattended, he has the potential to draw one of Victory's centre-backs out of position, leaving Juric free to wreak havoc in the box.
We know Muscat's side can score plenty of goals, although they will be facing one of the better defensive teams in the competition this week. Similarly, the navy blue and whites have been vulnerable at the back at times this season, and the visitors will fancy their chances of breaching the home team's defence at AAMI Park. So we're predicting goals in this one, with either side capable of snatching the victory.
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