Despite a full weekend of Premier League fixtures, there was one game which everyone was focused on.
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A few people have told me that Melbourne Victory should win comfortably against Adelaide, either 4-1 or 3-0.
That may very well be the scoreline, but this article is about why people are underestimating their rivals, and why Adelaide is still a finals force.
A reason why people don’t think highly of Adelaide in this finals series is that of Adelaide’s recent finals history. A reason for this is the claim that Adelaide has never won a finals game outside of the ‘City of Churches’. For reference, Adelaide’s last six away final games were:
Sydney FC (second) versus Adelaide United (3rd) 4-1, 2014/15.
Central Coast (3rd) versus Adelaide United (6th) 1-0, 2013/14.
Melbourne Victory (1st) versus Adelaide United (second) 1-0, 2008/09.
Melbourne Victory (1st) versus Adelaide United (second) 4-0, 2008/09.
Melbourne Victory (1st) versus Adelaide United (second) 6-0, 2006/07.
Melbourne Victory (1st) versus Adelaide United (second) 2-1, 2006/07.
Might I ask, why are people using away finals games several seasons ago to determine the fate of a new Adelaide side?
Another reason which people believe Melbourne Victory will win their final comfortably is because of Victory’s 3-0 triumph against Adelaide United. And while it was a convincing win, starters Ryan Strain, Taylor Regan, Jordan O’Doherty, George Blackwood and Ryan Kitto were all demoted and replaced by different squad members only two rounds after the loss to Victory.
These promoted players were either injured or suspended which include Tarek Elrich, Vince Lia, Ersan Gulum, Nathan Kostandopoulous, Baba Diawara and most famously, Johan Absalonsen. Victory may face a completely different line-up, more like the team they faced in Round 3 (a 2-2 draw, in Hindmarsh Stadium, largely dominated by Kurz’s men).
Victory is immensely confident about winning comfortably is that of their attack consisting of James Troisi, Kosta Barbarouses, Leroy George and Besart Berisha. Keeping Victory’s attack quiet will be vital, but perhaps not as difficult as some think.
Kosta Barbarouses has only scored once in his past nine starts, Besart Berisha has scored fewer goals than usual this season (13), and James Troisi hasn’t managed as many scoring involvements as last season, but has managed to constantly foul players.
Perhaps these players won’t manage to trouble the Adelaide United defence. In Round 10 (2-1 Adelaide away win), none of these players managed to find the back of the net, and Berisha had a spot kick which was saved by Paul Izzo. They also had ten minutes of relentless attacking against Adelaide who was reduced to nine men.
Strengths: Attack. Scored the third most goals in the A-League season. Leroy George and Besart Berisha will be a real attacking threat to the Adelaide defence.
Barbarouses and Troisi are more hit or miss, but are still international team players for a reason. In addition, Melbourne Victory was only held scoreless four times this season.
Weaknesses: I would say Thomas Deng and Leigh Broxham aren’t natural full backs. Both play a more central role in the defence. In addition, Stefan Nigro (who is the only natural fullback) was outpaced and outsmarted by Mileusnic in his last clash against Adelaide.
Strengths: I would say that Adelaide’s midfielders and wingers are their strongest suit. All the centre midfielders offer lots. Isaias offers leadership, Adlung creates opportunities and can score himself while Kostandopoulous adds lots of raw energy.
Absalonsen has made a massive impact after returning from injury, scoring, assisting and also provides experience, while Mileusnic is one of the fastest footballers in the world and has shown to be a menace to opposing full backs. Both are so very different.
Weaknesses: I would say the defence is quite vulnerable for a team who wishes to play finals. Adelaide hasn’t managed to keep a clean sheet since an away 1-0 victory against Wellington. However, Victory has only conceded one goal less than Adelaide in the entire A-League season.
A very fiery match, especially as it is in the finals series and against two rivals. Someone will be sent off, but it will be a shame if Williams dives again.
Predicted starting line-ups
Melbourne Victory (4-2-3-1): Thomas; Deng, Donachie, Williams, Broxham; Antonis, Valeri; Barbarouses, Troisi, George; Berisha
Subs) Acton, Athiu, Nigro, Hope, Sanchez
Adelaide United (4-3-3): Izzo; Marrone, Elsey, Gulum, Garuccio, Kostandopoulous, Isaias, Adlung; Mileusnic, Diawara, Absalonsen
Subs) Margush, Elrich, Blackwood, Kitto, Regan