Fiery semi unlikely to undo Victory’s hoodoo

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Sydney FC midfielder Milos Ninkovic (10) in the A-League Soccer Match between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory two weeks ago. 

By TAS MAVRIDIS

In a rematch of last year’s decider, Sydney have had the wood over the Victory after winning the last six regular season matches as well as last year’s Grand Final.  

However, in six finals meetings between the sides the Victory has never lost to Sydney in regular time.

The Sky Blues booked their place in the semi-final after finishing on top of the table and taking home the premiers plate, 14 points clear of second-placed Newcastle.

Victory narrowly defeated Adelaide United 2-1 in their elimination final, with Besart Berisha’s bicycle kick winning it in the 89thminute.

Last time they met

Round 27: Sydney FC 1 Melbourne Victory 0 at Allianz Stadium.

Sydney striker Bobo’s 8thminute goal was enough to separate the sides, in a frustrating encounter for the Victory.

Central defender Alex Wilkinson produced a brilliant performance including a goal line clearance to deny Kevin Muscat’s men a point.

Tactical preview

Sydney have switched between two main tactical line ups.

The preferred choice for Graham Arnold has been a 4-2-3-1 with lone striker Bobo supported by winger Adrian Mierzejewski who has set the league on fire this season, along with Alex Brosque and Milos Ninkovic.

A slight variation on this in the latter parts of the season has seen Arnold switch to a 4-4-2 with reserve striker Matt Simon going up front and another midfield player dropping in behind the front two.

Kevin Muscat on the other hand has stuck with a consistent line up for most of the season, opting for a 4-2-3-1 with Berisha supported by Leroy George, James Troisi and Kosta Barbarouses.

Recent games have seen forwards Christian Theoharous and Kenny Athiu come off the bench to impact the match, something Muscat may consider if the game is slipping away from the Victory.

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Sydney’s Bobo controls the ball during the AFC Champions League match between Sydney FC and Shaghai Shenhua  on April 17. 

Key player match-ups

Bobo v Besart Berisha

While the strikers for each side will not directly match up on each other, these two men will be the ones to decide the tie.

Bobo has been in remarkable form for Sydney FC, breaking the record for goals scored in an A-League season with 27, a staggering 13 clear of the next best total.

Despite not having his most prolific season, Berisha has still scored 14 goals (including finals), with his goal in the elimination final further cementing his status as a big-game player.

The A-League’s all-time leading scorer will be eager to right the wrongs of last season’s Grand Final result with a big performance.

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Besart Berisha of the Victory runs with the ball during the A-League Elimination Final match between Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United  on April 22.

Adrian Mierzejewski v Leroy George

This is another match-up where the players will not directly play on each other, but these two midfielders are the main source of creativity for their respective sides.

The two favourites for the Johnny Warren Medal (A-League Player of the Year) have had a significant impact for their teams.

Adrian has scored 13 goals and had nine assists, while George has scored nine goals (including finals) and assisted a record 14 goals for the Victory.

With both players having a key figure at the top of the pitch, they will take a backseat as a creative outlet to create chances for their strikers.

Match Prediction

Plenty of talk has come out of both camps over the week with the Victory desperate to end their hoodoo against Sydney. As the trend has gone in recent finals, Sydney 2-1 after extra time.