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Preview: Melb Victory v Sydney FC Round 21 2015/16

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Sydney FC faithful will have woken to the news that the Sky Blues are front runners to snare the much-prized signature of Socceroo winger Tommy Oar. The deal would be a shot in the arm for the beleaguered club and its supporters.

The thought of Tommy Oar making a run down the left before delivering a pinpoint cross is certainly one to lift the current gloom. And after Sydney’s abysmal set piece display in Saitama on Wednesday night, the Sky Blues could finally have a player capable of delivering a quality free kick.

Let’s hope it happens.

A piece of good news that has been largely missed due to the club’s A-League and ACL commitments is the announcement of its squad for the upcoming NPL season. Built on the foundations of the side that won the shortened (and possibly last) NYL competition last month, there are two additions to the squad that should fill every Sydney FC supporter with delight.

The signing of 17 year old Daniel Arzani, the club’s most talented young midfielder since a teenage Terry Antonis arrived in 2010, is a massive pointer to the future. He is joined by fellow Under-17 representative winger Daniel Maskin, unlucky to miss selection for the Joeys’ World Cup tilt late last year. The winger spent some of last season injured but appears to be healthy once again.

It is encouraging to see both local youngsters avoid the pitfalls of premature overseas moves (to England and Belgium respectively), opting instead to actively develop their game at home. And given their talent, a season’s senior football could pave the way for them to earn A-League contracts with the Sky Blues.

They are not alone of course, with George Timotheu, Daniel Araujo and skipper Yianni Spyrakis also on track for senior contracts in the next twelve months. In a week of doom and gloom, it is gratifying to see that the club is building impressively for the future.

Graham Arnold, under fire following his side’s display in Japan that raised more questions about his coaching than his players’ ability, is expected to freshen up his squad for Saturday night’s Big Blue. Jacques Faty and Filip Holosko, not picked for the ACL campaign, will be joined by other Sydney players left behind for the Urawa match – Matt Simon, David Carney and Brandon O’Neill.

Add Alex Brosque and Milos Ninkovic in the mix – both given just 20 minutes on the field in Saitama and the side appears fresh and ready to take the game to their traditional rivals.

On the flip side, Vedran Janjetovic, Rhyan Grant and Seb Ryall will back up while it is hard to see Milos Dimitrijevic and Mikael Tavares take the field following their exertions on Wednesday night. With that in mind, the side that takes the field at Docklands is expected to be something akin to this:

Janjetovic; Ryall, Faty, Jurman, Grant; O’Neill, Brosque, Ninkovic; Holosko, Carney, Simon.

While Sydney are at full strength, Melbourne Victory, coming off a morale-boosting 2-1 win against the visiting Shanghai last Wednesday, will miss rightback Jason Geria, who is serving out a suspension. His replacement is likely to be Scott Galloway and this could work to the advantage Sydney’s left winger David Carney.

Victory’s failed attempt to bring Socceroo Mark Milligan back to the club highlights just how much they are missing Carl Valeri, out for the season with an inflammatory brain condition. Valeri’s replacement, Rashid Mahazi, isn’t in the same class and is prone to a rash challenge when beaten. It is another avenue the Sky Blues will do well to exploit. And can ageing centreback Mathieu Delpierre recover after a hard game just three days prior?

It is well-known that Victory’s best avenue to three points is via its magical attacking quartet of Gui Finkler, Fahid Ben-Khalfallah, Kosta Barbarouses and Besart Berisha. It is equally well-known that Victory’s favourite footballing tactic is to allow their opposition to play, press and regain possession on the halfway line and hit on the counter. No side is better at this than the Melbourne outfit.

Last time round, Arnie’s tactics to overcome this were to sit deep and deny Victory space, almost getting a draw out of the contest. On this occasion, however, it would appear that attack could be the best form of defence, especially if last week’s starting lineup against the Wanderers is any guide.

Psychologically, Wednesday night will give Melbourne a massive boost whilst placing Sydney firmly in the doldrums. But Arnie will remind his players that in the A-League competition, his side are coming off an excellent Sydney Derby display while their opponents were surprised by a late 0-1 defeat at the hands of Adelaide United last Friday night.

Fatigue could play a part in the contest and while the Sky Blues are more likely to suffer at its hands, they should have enough fresh players to overcome it. It is also this factor that should prompt the team not to spend an hour of the game chasing shadows – a demanding and, at times, frustrating exercise.

This week Victory have, thankfully, taken over the job of talking up their Big Blue chances from Sydney FC. It is a fool’s exercise and one the Sky Blues will do well to continue leaving to their opponents in the future.

Who wins?

Most punters are calling a home victory. Melbourne Victory go into the game as favourites but this column believes a thrilling draw is the most likely result.

That said, can the Sky Blues take all three points in what many would consider an upset?

You bet they can.