MELBOURNE Victory and Melbourne Heart will clash in Round 1 of the 2013-14 A-League season at Etihad Stadium on Saturday October 12 at 7:30pm AEDT.
Played: 9, Wins: Victory 3, Heart 3, Draws: 3
Victory 2-1 Heart, February 2 2013
Past five matches:
Melbourne derbies are always passionate, fiery and fast affairs and expect no different on Saturday night despite the absences of three internationals. Victory are without captain Mark Milligan and New Zealand international Kosta Barbarouses, while Heart are missing Malta star Michael Mifsud. It was Heart who took their chances in an entertaining season opener in 2012-13 before Victory claimed wins in the final two derbies of the campaign. Ange Postecoglou's men should still dominate possession despite being without Milligan in the centre of midfield. Just who he starts alongside Leigh Broxham remains to be seen, but he has the attacking talent of Archie Thompson, Mitch Nichols and James Troisi at his disposal. Heart have always looked a more dangerous side on the counter-attack and the way the game plays out could suit them.
The big issue:
Victory – Replacing Milligan in the centre of midfield for Round 1, and possibly Round 2, remains Postecoglou's biggest problem. Broxham is a certain starter in one of the two roles, but who sits alongside him is unknown. James Jeggo appears the most likely candidate, while Nichols can also play in the deeper role. Given Postecoglou's record, new signing Rashid Mahazi, 21, could be given a shock debut.
Heart – Just where the goals are coming from, both on Saturday night and throughout the season. Mifsud being away on international duty is a blow and could mean Golgol Mebrahtu is handed a start up front. They have added goals – Iain Ramsay, Harry Kewell and Mate Dugandzic, who missed most of last season because of injury, but it could be tough without a standout striker against Victory.
The game breaker:
Archie Thompson – The veteran has every right to be upset he was overlooked for the Socceroos squad away facing France and Canada. Thompson has grown to like playing against Heart, scoring twice against Victory's city rivals last season. He may need to start as the central forward on Saturday night but showed throughout last campaign he could produce from wide areas as well. Thompson has stepped up in big matches in the past and may do so again.
Prediction: Victory 2-1 Heart
Derbies are always tense and thrilling encounters and Victory have the attacking talent to trouble Heart, but none of the previous nine meetings have been won comfortably. Expect John Aloisi's side to again have their best moments on the counter-attack and that is likely to worry a Victory team which will enjoy the majority of possession. But Postecoglou's men should have enough to make a winning start to the season.