Preview: Melbourne Victory v Brisbane Roar

Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar will meet in Round 13 of the 2013-14 A-League season at AAMI Park on Saturday, January 4 at 7:45pm AEDT.

Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar will meet in Round 13 of the 2013-14 A-League season at AAMI Park on Saturday, January 4 at 7:45pm AEDT.


Played 25 – Win: Victory 11, Roar 8, Draws 6

Previous encounter:

Victory 1-0 Roar, October 25, 2013

Form: Past five matches:

Victory: DWWLD Roar: WLWWW

The Game:

Melbourne Victory are now three games unbeaten after super-sub Gui Finkler curled home a stunning last-gasp free-kick to salvage a draw against Western Sydney Wanderers at AAMI Park last Saturday. Despite having chances to hit the front in the first half, Saturday's result was enough to consolidate third position in the table, ahead of defending champions Central Coast Mariners. Injured striker Archie Thompson will be miss another week of football. 

League-leading Brisbane Roar suffered a minor blip at home to the Newcastle Jets before Christmas but returned to winning ways in emphatic style, trouncing free-falling Sydney FC 5-2 at Allianz Stadium. The Roar were without talisman Besart Berisha but it mattered little as Dimitri Petratos claimed a hat-trick against his former club. Mike Mulvey's men are four points clear of nearest rival Western Sydney at the summit. The Roar's trip to Melbourne comes too soon for the injured Berisha, who is set to return next week.

The big issue:

Victory – The future of star midfielder Mitch Nichols continues to dominate the headlines. J-League outfit Cerezo Osaka have publicly expressed their desire to sign Nichols, but their $200,000 bid was immediately turned down by Victory. The club's decision to reject Osaka's advances has reportedly upset Nichols, with Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou in favour of a move to Asia. Victory experienced a similar situation with captain Mark Milligan, who was the subject of a bid from English Premier League club Crystal Palace, home of Socceroos midfielder Mile Jedinak. Kevin Muscat will be hoping this situation does not impact Nichols' on-field performances.

Roar – Brisbane's form in Melbourne is a major concern for Mulvey's team. The dual A-League champions are winless in their last eight games away to Victory - losing four and drawing on four occasions. Roar's most recent win against Victory in Melbourne came under the guidance of former coach Frank Farina in 2008, when Tahj Minniecon and Michael Zullo guided the club to a 2-0 victory at Etihad Stadium. A lot has changed since then, both on and off the pitch, and Mulvey will be eager to stop the rot.

The game breaker:

Gui Finkler – The Brazilian maestro has been eased back into action with a number of appearances off the bench. Muscat is reluctant to start Finkler but the former Wolves man staked his claim for a return to the first XI with a superb set-piece against the Wanderers. Finkler has now scored two goals in his past three games - both as a substitute.

Prediction: Victory 1-2 Roar

Brisbane's depth has been under the microscope since Berisha succumbed to a hamstring injury but the Roar players have responded in terrific fashion, maintaining their lead atop the table. Roar will be without Berisha yet again on Saturday and while their form away to Victory has been poor, the likes of Thomas Broich, Ivan Franjic, Henrique and Petratos will have plenty of opportunities against a less-than-convincing Melbourne back-four.