MELBOURNE Victory and Perth Glory will meet in Round 10 of the 2013-14 A-League season at AAMI Park on Friday at 7.30pm (AEDT).
Past five matches:
Victory will be looking to arrest something of a form slump in recent weeks, having lost three of their past five outings. The most recent defeat was a 2-1 reverse at home to Newcastle Jets on Sunday, a particularly disappointing result given they dominated possession in front of a packed AAMI Park in their first appearance at the rectangular stadium this season. Convincing wins over Wellington and Adelaide mean rumblings of discontent directed at Kevin Muscat are yet to be heard, but Ange Postecoglou's successor will need to coax considerably more consistency from his talented charges to stave off the inevitable scrutiny. Glory meanwhile have recorded their best results on home soil, and are yet to win on the road this season. The odds are against them breaking that duck on Friday, but they did beat Victory at AAMI late last season, and may be motivated by the chance to gain revenge for their finals defeat to the navy blue and whites at Etihad Stadium in April.
The big issue:
Victory – It's a recurring theme for the powerhouse club, but Victory need to start turning their dominance of possession into more goals and wins. They controlled proceedings away to the Central Coast Mariners in Round 8, but were unable to breach the champions' defence. It was a similar story last time out, with James Troisi's well-worked goal all they managed despite spending the majority of the game camped out in the Jets' half. There are issues at the back too, where expensively acquired Chilean marquee defender Pablo Contreras continues to underwhelm, and was specifically at fault for Nathan Burns' winner on Sunday.
Glory – There is plenty to like about Perth Glory. Their crop of talented youngsters, touted so publically as the future of the club by coach Alistair Edwards in pre-season, have performed admirably when called on to replace the likes of Scott Jamieson, who has been ruled out for the rest of the campaign with a torn Achilles, and Steve Pantelidis, allowed to move to Malaysia club Selangor FA. Brazilian wide forward Sidnei Scolari gets better every week, and made the difference with two goals in a 4-2 win over Wellington Phoenix last week. But the Glory looked shaky away to Brisbane Roar in Round 8, up against a team with similar technical ability to Victory. Do they have what it takes to keep their shape and repel what are sure to be numerous waves of navy blue and white attacks?
The game breaker:
Michael Thwaite - A rugged, no-nonsense defender who has been in solid form so far in 2013-14. With the likes of Jack Clisby, Riley Woodcock and Matthew Davies sorely lacking in first-team experience, Glory will need the leadership and know-how of Thwaite to guide them through a testing encounter. It will be all about positional discipline for the visitors if they are to follow the Jets' example in stifling Victory's 4-2-4 formation, and Thwaite must lead by example at the back, breaking up attacks, using the ball well when he receives it and keeping a cool head throughout.
Prediction: Victory 2-1 Glory
Although both teams have a number of promising, callow youths in their ranks, the Glory are a few steps behind the Jets in their development as a team, and may be unable to repeat their feat of beating Victory in their own backyard. Proven to be vulnerable on the road, they will be up against it when they face a Victory team who will surely be determined not to make the same mistakes they did last Sunday. Muscat's players looked somewhat flat against Newcastle, with Mitch Nichols and James Troisi - crucial to the success of Victory's tactics - not quite matching their usual high standards of work rate and intelligent movement. That is unlikely to be the case this week, or the men in navy blue and white will be in for a serious spray from their passionate head coach, as well as the displeasure of their fanatical supporters.