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A-League

  • January 14, 2014
  • • 16:30
  • • AAMI Park, Melbourne
  • Referee: B. Williams
  • • Attendance: 14774
3
FT
1

PaddyPower WilliamHill Tipico
Melbourne Victory 2.70 2.60 2.70
Draw 3.40 3.00 3.20
Western Sydney 2.50 2.70 2.50
Victory-Wanderers Preview: Depleted hosts face stern test

Victory-Wanderers Preview: Depleted hosts face stern test

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The home team are scratching around for available players due to injury and absentees, while the Wanderers are looking to regain momentum after an inconsistent spell

The Melbourne Victory desperately need to avoid a loss against Western Sydney or their chances of finishing in the top two could be all but over. Winless in their past three, Kevin Muscat's undermanned team may be boosted by the return of captain Mark Milligan (knee) and will certainly have the services of centre-back Adrian Leijer after his suspension. Mitch Nichols was hurt during their 1-1 draw at Newcastle. Gui Finkler's tremendous late free-kick salvaged a point for the Victory when the teams met late in 2013. Just how many changes Tony Popovic will make after his side's 1-0 win over Sydney FC on Saturday night remains to be seen. Mateo Poljak and Iacopo La Rocca were both hurt – the Croatian in the warm-up – in the derby victory. Popovic's line-ups are unpredictable, but expect the Wanderers to be set up with a clean sheet as their main focus.

When will the Victory make a statement with another win against their fellow top-four rivals? In five matches against Brisbane, Central Coast or Western Sydney this season, the Victory have just one win. Last season, they managed just one in 10. Until they improve that dreadful record, it is hard to see Muscat's men being a serious title challenger or even making an impact in the finals. The Victory's attack has appeared threatening enough at times this season, but they are without a clean sheet in their past four outings.

The Wanderers meanwhile have a big opportunity and can move nine points clear of the Victory. This is a huge chance for Popovic's men. A win for the Wanderers would push them well clear of the Victory, but Popovic is still unlikely to take too many risks with his starting line-up at AAMI Park. Shinji Ono may be left on the bench due to the short turnaround, but the Wanderers' defence is still strong enough to be able to keep the Victory out. If they do that and can pinch a goal on the counter-attack, Popovic will consider it a job well done.

With Nichols potentially on the sidelines due to injury, the A-League's top goal-scorer in James Troisi will need to be at his best in the attacking third. Finkler is still easing his way back into action after a long-term injury and Troisi was unlucky not to score a late winner for the Victory against the Jets when his powerful shot was wonderfully saved by Mark Birighitti. He has scored seven goals this season and always looks a danger when on the ball.

The first goal will be so important, especially for the Victory. If Popovic's men score first, they will be content to sit back and absorb anything Muscat's side throw at them. In December, that was almost enough – only for Finkler to score a wonderful stoppage-time free-kick to give the Victory a point. A 41-degree day is forecast in Melbourne, with temperatures expected to still be above 30 at kick-off. The Wanderers will be patient in waiting for their opportunities on the break, but unless there is an early goal – expect a draw.

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