Breanna Holden's Week 10 HAL Preview

by Breanna Holden on Dec 13, 2014

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It's a mini weekend of action, but it does feature one of the league's marquee match ups; the Big Blue between Victory and Sydney FC. Breanna Holden tells us what's up with the Saturday A-League action.

Wellington Phoenix v Central Coast Mariners
Saturday, 13 December, Westpac Stadium
Kick-Off: 5:00pm local (3:00pm AEDT)
Referee: Alan Milliner

Wellington Phoenix backed up their round eight, 5-1 win, with another solid performance in Newcastle last weekend, coming from behind to see off the winless Jets 3-1. Despite Wellington’s first half providing more frustration than goals, once again newly re-called Socceroo Nathan Burns was at the centre of their turn-around, even without finding himself on the score sheet.

Returning home this weekend the Nix will be looking to make it three on the trot when they face a struggling Central Coast Mariners. Interestingly despite Wellington often having a strong advantage on home soil the Phoenix have lost almost half their encounters with the Mariners at Westpac Stadium, and conceded at least once in their previous 12 meetings. However with Central Coast only managing five goals all season (the same amount Wellington grabbed in their last home encounter alone) those trends could be broken by the in-form New Zealand side.

That said, although Wellington bagged the win at Hunter Stadium it wasn’t an ideal performance for some of the New Zealand side’s key men. In particular the Phoenix front men Michael McGlinchey and Roy Krishna, who will need to work on their finishing if the Nix are to continuing pressing the top four. However; Ernie Merrick’s half time shuffle, placing McGlinchey in a much more effective supporting role, saw a return to the clinical Phoenix of last weekend, and proved pivotal to bagging the win.

Central Coast on the other hand seems to be unable to work out how to get out of first gear. Continually struggling to perform for the full 90 minutes, a sloppy second half in round 9 undid the Mariners sound work in the first 45 and saw them concede three goals in just over 10 minutes – handing Melbourne Victory a 3-0 away win.

Heading to New Zealand they will be desperate for a win, and despite their current form a trip to Westpac Stadium might just be what the Coasties need, having gone without a loss across the Tasman for the past six matches. That said the side can’t expect to leave Wellington with three points if they continue to self-implode at crucial moments and shut down mentally either side of half time.

With the January transfer window still several rounds away Phil Moss needs to do something about the lack of creativity in attack and the increasing trend for players to shy away from goal, seemingly unwilling to take on the responsibility of scoring. Something must change with the hard work in midfield undone by players looking for teammates who simply aren’t there, or offloading instead of taking a shot. The Mariners need to work on backing themselves and their teammates when attacking if they are to seriously challenge an opportunistic and highly confident Wellington side.

My Tip: Wellington
Although the Mariners have enjoyed success in New Zealand recently they are, simply put, a shadow of the sides that have left Wellington with points. While Matt Simon and Mitch Duke aren’t stepping up to the plate often enough in the final third, Wellington are bagging goals – and wins – against the run of play, and outside of a Central Coast make-over this weekend the Phoenix are set for a win.

Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC
Saturday 13 December, AAMI Park
Kick-Off: 7:30pm local (7:30pm AEDT)
Referee: Peter Green

Melbourne Victory mounted more pressure on league leaders Perth Glory in round 9, the Victorians overcoming a controversial pitch at North Sydney oval to slot three unanswered goals past the Central Coast Mariners. Although the score depicts a Victory onslaught it was once again a show of patience and character for Kevin Muscat’s troops who had to work continuously to break down a resilient Mariners side.

Muscat couldn’t have asked for a better run into the all important Big Blue this weekend, with the side not only picking up their first away win of the season but, following the Sky Blues loss, also becoming the only squad yet to taste defeat this campaign. Statistically though, their current record of nine games unbeaten could be under serious threat from Sydney FC with Victory only managing one win in their last six encounters with the NSW side.

Saturday night’s encounter with Graham Arnold’s men will have Melbourne’s goal scorers put to the ultimate test. Not only does Sydney FC have the best defensive record in the league but the first meeting between the two side’s this season ended in a 0-0 draw, with Victory frustrated constantly by a defiant opposition back line. Since that round 6 encounter Muscat’s side have notched an impressive seven goals (in just three matches) while Sydney haven’t managed a clean sheet, something that won’t be lost on his already confident side.

Sydney FC suffered their first loss of the season last round, going down to a resilient Perth Glory 2-1 on Thursday night. The Sky Blues characteristic discipline held off the Glory for much of the match but eventually their missed opportunities (likely thanks to the absence of Mark Janko and long term injury to Corey Gameiro) came back to haunt them as a Perth set piece handed them the equaliser, and the drive to carry on for a win.

The loss to Perth is certainly a set back for Sydney FC who head into the always hostile Big Blue several points off the pace of Melbourne Victory and without the all important momentum a team gains from a big win. With that in mind, although last round’s result may have set back SFC’s confidence the memory of their last away meeting with Victory, which ended 5-0 to the visitors, will go a long way in helping strengthen the team mentally. Furthermore the knowledge that Arnold’s men are the only side Victory have failed to score against will certainly boost their attitude entering the encounter.

On Saturday night Sydney FC will undoubtedly relish the return of Mark Janko with the Austrian’s combinations with Terry Antonis, Bernie Ibini and Alex Brosque certainly a missing factor on Thursday night. Additionally Sebastian Ryall’s return from suspension will be a welcome one with the defender always pivotal in matches against his former side. That said despite these returns the Sky Blues will still have a lot of work to do, with Melbourne all about controlling the pace of the game from the outset, Sydney will have to remain head strong and determined to play their own game, or the Victory will run riot.

My Tip: Melbourne Victory
Melbourne seem to grow from strength to strength each round and have so far this season exhibited the versatility that makes it hard to tip against them. Last meeting this fixture ended in an exciting 0-0 draw, since then Melbourne have pulled off wins against top sides while Sydney have struggled with injuries and a lack of creativity. Although the match is bound to be an exciting and passionate encounter it is hard to see Melbourne stumbling with their current form and ability to tactically re-shuffle seamlessly.