Sydney FC vs. Melbourne Victory – 7:30pm local time on Saturday, November 14, 2015 at Allianz Arena
Sydney FC – $2.80 at CrownBet.com
Melbourne Victory – $2.65 at William Hill
Draw – $3.50 at www.Sportsbet.com
Sydney FC – 1st
Melbourne Victory – 4th
Sydney FC – D W W W D
Melbourne Victory – D W L W
Last five A-League meetings
Victory 3-0 Sydney
Sydney 3-3 Victory
Victory 3-3 Sydney
Sydney 0-0 Victory
Victory 2-1 Sydney
How often are the league leaders pegged as the outsiders when playing on their own patch?
That’s the situation for Sydney FC as they prepare to host Melbourne Victory in the first Big Blue of A-League 2015-16.
Online bookmaker CrownBet.com has Sydney at $2.80 to win Saturday night’s clash, while Melbourne are paying $2.65 best odds over at William Hill.
Given those prices, you wouldn’t think the Sky Blues had gone undefeated through their first five games of the season and were sitting pretty in first place.
Graham Arnold’s men were held to a goalless stalemate by Brisbane Roar last week, however, while the Victory skipped league duties to beat Perth Glory 2-0 in the final of the FFA Cup.
They have also lost Christopher Naumoff and Andrew Hoole to the Australia under-23 squad, which leaves them a little bit light in attacking midfield options.
But probably the biggest factor in Sydney’s long odds is their recent record against their arch-rivals.
Last time these two met, the Victory walked away with a 3-0 win and the A-League Championship trophy.
Thus, a win at Allianz Stadium on Saturday would be the sweetest of scalps for Sydney FC chief executive Tony Pignata, who said this week that the inter-city rivalry eclipsed any local derby in A-League football.
“We’re the number one and number two clubs in Australia and that speaks for itself,” Pignata told Fairfax Media.
“You can argue over who is bigger, but every time we play each other, regardless of whether it’s in Melbourne or Sydney, it feels like we’re playing off to be Australia’s biggest club.
“We’re the team that represents Sydney, they’re still the team that represents Melbourne, and both cities think they’re the country’s best. That’s why this is elevated above.”
Former Victory defender Sebastian Ryall echoed those sentiments, saying he and his Sydney teammates looked forward to the Big Blue more than any other date on the A-League calendar.
“As a player for Sydney FC, the team you always want to beat is Victory,” Ryall told the press on Tuesday.
“They’re the team we dislike the most, and we definitely have a point to prove after last season.”
They could hardly have a better opportunity to make amends, as Kevin Muscat’s side will be missing plenty of prominent names this weekend.
Victory captain Carl Valeri is ineligible through suspension, while Giancarlo Gallifuoco, Scott Galloway, Jason Geria and Connor Pain are all away on international duty with the Olyroos.
Also out of action is the A-League’s all-time top scorer, Archie Thompson, who isn’t expected to return until December.
Meanwhile, Kosta Barbarouses is in Oman for New Zealand’s friendly fixture on Friday, although the All Whites forward has refused to rule out the possibility of appearing at the Allianz on Saturday evening.
“It’s tough to say at the moment, I’m just going to see how I’m feeling after the game,” he told the media on Thursday.
“There’s been no pressure on me from anyone, so I’ll just get back there and assess how I’m feeling.”
Sydney FC team news
Although Hoole and Naumoff are away on international duty, their absence should have little impact on Graham Arnold’s starting lineup. Kiwi striker Shane Smeltz is in doubt with a groin injury, meaning Matt Simon could start, but otherwise it should be a very similar team to the one that faced Brisbane Roar last Friday.
Possible Sydney FC XI: Janjetovic, Ryall, Faty, Gurman, Grant, O’Neill, Tavares, Ninkovic, Holosko, Brosque, Simon.
Melbourne Victory team news
With at least half a dozen names out, the Victory’s matchday squad this Saturday will bear only a passing resemblance to the one which lifted the FFA Cup last weekend. Teenage stopper Thomas Deng could start in the heart of defence, while the likes of Rashid Mahazi and Jess Makarounas may well get a run in the midfield.
Possible Melbourne Victory XI: Vukovic, Broxham, Deng, Delpierre, Georgievski, Bozanic, Mahazi, Makarounas, Finkler, Ben Kalfallah, Berisha.
– Drawn match ($3.50 at Sportsbet.com)
– Both teams to score ($1.59 at CrownBet)
– Correct score 1-1 ($7.50 at www.WilliamHill.com)
Four of the last six Big Blues have ended all square, and we reckon that theme will continue on Saturday night. A full-strength Victory side would have been hard to beat, but those key absentees could dull their edge a bit. Keep an eye on the matchday squad lists, though, as Barbarouses could be a game-changer off the bench for MV if he pulls up after international duty.
Sydney FC first goalscorer bets
Matt Simon ($7.50 at Sportsbet)
With Smeltz injured, there could be an opportunity for Simon to state his case for a regular starting berth. The 29-year-old centre forward has netted two goals in three appearances since switching from Central Coast Mariners in the off-season, and he could be a very big presence against a Victory side missing a few familiar names.
Sebastian Ryall ($41 at Sportsbet)
If you fancy a cheeky long-shot, there is plenty to be said for putting your money on Seb Ryall. The former Melbourne Victory centre-back has bagged nine A-League goals during his time at Sydney, four of which have come in the Big Blue. He could be a real threat from set pieces.
Melbourne Victory first goalscorer odds
Besart Berisha ($5.50 at Sportsbet)
With Archie Thompson injured and Kosta Barbarouses no certainty to play, Berisha looms as the obvious choice in the goalscorer betting markets. The Albanian striker already has three goals from four A-League appearances this season, so it would be no surprise whatsoever if he found the back of the net once again at the Allianz.
Guilherme Finkler ($9.50 at Sportsbet)
Victory’s Brazilian playmaker is one of those guys who has the knack for producing the goods when it counts. While better known as a creator than a finisher, Finkler is very handy with a dead ball and has scored clutch goals against Sydney on more than one occasion.
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