Kevin Muscat‘s Melbourne Victory Football Club, tragically, have forgotten how to play the game of association football properly. They have four losses on the spin and head into Sunday, Dec. 27 contest with Kenny Lowe‘s Perth Glory Football Club in danger of dropping out of the top six by the start of January. Melbourne are 5-1-5 (16 points) and fifth on the Hyundai A-League ladder, while Perth are 3-2-6 (11 points) good for eighth on the ladder.
Perth are coming off a 2-2 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers at home, while the Victory came off a tough 2-1 defeat to Melbourne City at AAMI Park, in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, where this contest will be played. Jonathan Howcroft from the Guardian writes on the decline of Melbourne Victory’s form.
Only Carl Valeri and Nick Ansell are missing from Muscat’s preferred XI but it is the incumbents, not the absentees that are the problem. Fahid Ben Khalfallah has looked a shadow of the player he was last season and his diminishing return has blunted the forward foursome that took 2015 by storm. Noticeably, defenses are adapting to Ben Khalfallah’s preference to cut in from the left and onto his right foot. This instinct is delaying Victory in attacking transition, making Besart Berisha’s task a thankless one and increasing the responsibility for Kosta Barbarouses to inject pace and directness into forays forward. Just two goals from open play in six rounds tells a sorry tale.
Valeri’s leadership is missing in the short-term but longer-term Mark Milligan’s drive may prove harder to replace. Oliver Bozanic and Rashid Mahazi have not played poorly as a pair but neither have they run games or been able to alter their course through force of will as was Milligan’s wont. Behind them Danny Vukovic was supposed to be an upgrade on Nathan Coe but so far he has failed to enhance his considerable reputation.
The solution is unlikely to be in wholesale changes. To accommodate such a powerful first XI only a few additional senior squad members have been accounted for in the salary cap. Archie Thompson will add energy and unpredictability once he regains full fitness but otherwise Muscat’s hands are tied. It will be down to his tactical nous and man-management skills to ensure this is only a temporary dip in form.
However, we here at The Stoppage Time are not convinced that this is temporary and hereby issue an edict: that Melbourne Victory start playing the game of soccer correctly to ensure these predictions return in their favor. That is all, all is that. Kickoff is scheduled for 10 p.m. PT (Saturday)/1 a.m. ET/5 p.m. AEDT. The Live Blog of this contest begins at 8 p.m. PT (Saturday)/11 p.m. ET (Saturday). Here’s what we think will happen in the match between Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory.
- At least three goals will be scored.
- Ante Covic will make at least four saves.
- At least two shots will hit the woodwork.
- Danny Vukovic will make under four saves.
- Besart Berisha will score for Melbourne Victory.
- Jamal Reiners will record an assist for Perth Glory.
- Diego Castro will score a brace for Perth Glory.
- Archie Thompson will not get on the scoresheet for Melbourne Victory.
- At least 45 fouls will be whistled.
- Under six cards will be issued.
A win by Melbourne over Perth will be considered an upset. The Victory will now have to prove to The Stoppage Time’s team of writers that they did not forget how to play the game in a way that allows them to live up to their time-honored moniker.
Perth Glory 2, Melbourne Victory 1