Saturday, February 6 from 7:30pm at AAMI Park, Melbourne – watch on Fox Sports
In terms of derbies, it does not get bigger than this.
City and the Victory are set to battle it out in what looms as the most important clash between the two sides since Melbourne City was formed.
The competing teams are locked on 28 points in third and fourth position on the A-League ladder.
The victor will draw three points clear of their cross-town rival and could end the round just two points shy of the top position.
The loser could potentially fall outside the top six if Adelaide are able to defeat the last-placed Central Coast Mariners.
City defender Michael Zullo said the typically-venomous Melbourne derby makes the already fierce battle for finals positions all the more intense.
“A derby is a very unique experience all across the world.” Zullo said.
“It doesn’t matter if Victory has lost the last six and were bottom of the table. It’s almost like a grand final kind of atmosphere and experience,”
After their tardy start against the Jets last week, which saw them drop points against one of the season’s biggest strugglers, Zullo said the beginning of the match holds the key to defeating the Victory.
“We need to come out of the gates flying, which is different to how we played against Newcastle.”
“We need to do what Western Sydney did to them, be aggressive, kind of boss them around the field and exert ourselves without getting over-excited. We really need to show who is the real title contender.
“I think this game can go a long way to defining the rest of our season.”
After an average road game against the Perth Glory which saw them fall to the Western Australians for the second time this season, the Victory split the points with the top of the table Wanderers last week.
The Victory had the game in hand until the dying stages, until Wanderer striker Brendon Santalab levelled the scores just before the final whistle.
A loss to City could potentially leave the Victory nine points adrift of the Wanderers.
Four of their last eight games are against top six sides, a task that could make securing a home final a much more onerous task.
Victory manager Kevin Muscat was optimistic when discussing his side’s tough run into the finals.
“It will be difficult from there (9 points behind league leaders Western Sydney) with the number of games remaining, but there’s still a lot of football to be played,” Muscat said.
“Two or three results go your way and you’re playing the teams in and around you, and most of our games remaining are teams in and around us here in Melbourne, so our destiny’s still in our hands.”
The last time the two sides met City snapped a three-game losing streak against the Victory, defeating their southern state counterparts 2-1.
Odds provided by WilliamHill.com.au
Winner: Melbourne City – $2.80
First goal scorer: Bruno Fornaroli – $6.50
Correct score: 3-1 – $19.00
Melbourne City host the Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park in what looms as the most important derby match up in both clubs’ history.
Both teams come into the match up locked on 28 points alongside Sydney FC, underlining just how vital it is for both sides to secure the win on Saturday.
City were ordinary last week against the Jets, underestimating their lowly opponents; paying the price in the process.
The Melbourne Victory led for the majority of the match against the top placed Western Sydney Wanderers, only to concede a late goal to only leave the match with a solitary point.
This match up means everything to both sides.
City have been an unstoppable scoring force this season.
Aaron Mooy and Bruno Fornaroli have headed the charge for their side, scoring a combined 22 goals this season.
The Victory are heavily reliant on Besart Berisha to score the lion’s share of goals.
Berisha has 14 goals this season, ten clear of the next best Victory player Kosta Barbarouses, who has four.
The majority of the sides in the A-League have not been able to quell the influence of the Albanian Berisha, but any failure on his part to have an impact will prove costly for the Victory.
Expect City to outmuscle and outgun the Victory at AAMI Park en route to securing a top three spot, condemning their opponents to a potential drop outside the top five in the process.
A-League specials and promotions for round 19
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