By Thomas Flewker-Barker
Melbourne City FC vs Melbourne Victory
KO: 5:00pm AEDT, Saturday 21 December 2019
Venue: AAMI Park
AAMI Park is set to host the 31st edition of the Melbourne Derby on Saturday afternoon, with Melbourne City looking to close the gap on the A-League summit.
City storm into the fixture off the back of a 4-0 demolition of Newcastle last Sunday and have bagged 20 goals so far this season; an average of 2.22 goals per game.
Uruguayan imports Adrian Luna and Javier Cabrera impressed at the McDonald Jones Stadium, with Luna firing two first-half goals before a Cabrera thunderbolt extended City’s lead to three just after the interval.
Record-breaking Jamie Maclaren became the fastest ever A-League player to reach 10 goals in a season (taking just six games), and this week vowed to celebrate in front of the Victory faithful if his rich scoring form continues.
City kept their second clean-sheet of the season against the Jets, their first since the Melbourne Derby in round 1, and have conceded on 14 occasions so far this campaign (tied for second worst in the league).
Melbourne City have only defeated Victory twice at home since the City Football Group takeover, with each of their last four derby victories coming at Marvel Stadium.
Denis Genreau is set to sit this clash out, having sustained an unfortunate shoulder injury in Newcastle.
On a more positive note for City, Rostyn Griffiths returns to the squad having missed their thumping win against the Jets as a result of illness.
An insipid Melbourne Victory side head into the Derby with only nine points after 10 fixtures, sitting two points outside the top six.
Marco Kurz has failed to fill the boots of Kevin Muscat so far this season, with Victory in eighth, 15 points behind league leaders Sydney FC and just two points above last-placed Central Coast Mariners.
What’s more, Victory are one of just two teams to have gone without a bye this season, meaning the teams hoping to leapfrog them (Newcastle & Central Coast in particular) will have a number of games in hand to do so.
Victory have only scored nine times in the league this year (averaging 0.9 goals per game) and will be heavily reliant on the attacking flair of star striker Ola Toivonen and Socceroos winger Robbie Kruse to provide an avenue to goal.
Toivonen netted a 55th minute opener in the 2018/19 rendition of the Christmas Derby, and Kruse scored three goals against Melbourne Heart during his first spell at the club.
Kristijan Dobras will miss tomorrow afternoon’s game through suspension, having been controversially sent off against Wellington for a high boot challenge on Cam Devlin.
Interestingly, both of Melbourne Victory’s wins so far this season have come when they have had 33.7% (Brisbane) and 35.8% (Perth) possession; while City’s heavy defeat against Perth saw them have a season-high 62.4% possession.
Clearly, Melbourne Victory have proven that their best football comes when playing on the counter-attack, while Melbourne City have shown considerable vulnerability against opponents who sit deep.
Does this mean that Melbourne Victory will be able to combat City’s possession-based football?
We find out tomorrow!
Players to watch: Adrian Luna (Melbourne City FC), Robbie Kruse (Melbourne Victory)
Score prediction: Melbourne City 2-1 Melbourne Victory
Melbourne Derby Facts and Stats:
Latest fixture: Melbourne Victory 0-0 Melbourne City (Marvel Stadium)
Last fixture at AAMI Park: Melbourne City 1-1 Melbourne Victory
Last City home win: December 2015 (6 games ago)
Head-to-head: City 10 wins, Victory 12 wins, 8 draws
Goals: City 41, Victory 45
Top-scorers: Bruno Fornaroli 4 (City), Besart Berisha 9 (Victory)
Players who have played for both clubs: Harry Kewell, Aziz Behich, Fred, Anthony Lesiotis (current), Mate Dugandzic, Tando Velaphi, Kristian Sarkies