So the first Big Blue of the season is here, and with it yet again comes a lot of controversies.
The main reason is that Sydney FC requested a change in the date of the Big Blue which allowed Socceroos internationals Rhyan Grant and Andrew Redmayne to return in time for the game. However, Melbourne Victory will be without four key players due to international duty, and there is a huge amount of controversy that will be coming up into this game.
Sydney is coming off the back of a bye, and they currently sit fourth on the table with nine points from four games. Their most recent win was a 4-1 victory over Newcastle Jets. On the other hand, Melbourne Victory is coming off a disappointing start to their season, registering five points in five games.
They are winless in the past two games, first of all losing to Western United 3-2 and then disappointedly drawing 1-1 with Wellington Phoenix. In the game against Phoenix, they had 20 shots and maintained the majority of the possession with 67 per cent. Marco Kurz has made it clear that there is no reason to press the panic button yet, and a win here in Sydney could do wonders for his team in terms of confidence.
Sydney FC squad
The big news for Sydney FC fans is Michael Zullo’s return to the matchday squad. Zullo played a full training session with the squad again one week and two days before the Big Blue and has stated that he is feeling better than ever after an injury to his left quad.
He has mentioned that he will be fighting for a starting position, and to back that up Steve Corica has confirmed that he will be involved in the Big Blue. In other good news for Sydney FC, Corica has said that he expects Rhyan Grant to start and play all 90 minutes in the clash.
Kosta Barbarouses publicly revealed that he turned down a call up for the New Zealand national team to play in the Big Blue and will be looking to get his name on the scoresheet against his former side. In terms of the starting eleven, I can’t see Sydney FC changing anything, except that Michael Zullo could come in for Paulo Retre in left-back.
Sydney FC predicted starting 11
GK: Andrew Redmayne
LB: Michael Zullo
CB: Alex Wilkinson
CB: Ryan McGowan
RB: Rhyan Grant
CDM: Brandon O’Neil
CDM: Luke Brattan
LAM: Milos Ninkovic
RAM: Alex Baumjohann
ST: Adam Le Fondre
ST: Kosta Barbarouses
Melbourne Victory squad
Melbourne Victory has lost four players to international duty for the Big Blue. In defence, they have lost Storm Roux, who has started all of their matches this season from right-back, and they have also lost Thomas Deng, who has also started all five of their matches this season from centre-back.
In midfield, they have lost another regular starter in Elvis Kamsoba, and up front they have lost Kenny Athiu.
However, in better news, they have welcomed back Robbie Kruse, who is returning from injury. I expect for Kruse to start this clash, as it is an important game and Melbourne Victory are lacking players on the wing with Kamsoba and Athiu was gone. All these players out of the squad give a chance for younger players to shine.
Josh Hope could make his first start of the season, as could Anthony Lesiotis. Jay Barnett could also be in contention for a starting position, as could Birkan Kirdar. It is also likely that utility man Leigh Broxham could be shifted into right-back, while Benjamin Carrigan could start in the centre of defence.
Melbourne Victory predicted starting 11
Formation: 4-1-2-1-2 (narrow)
GK: Lawrence Thomas
LB: Adama Traore
CB: Benjamin Carrigan
CB: James Donachie
RB: Leigh Broxham
LCM: Josh Hope
CDM: Migjen Basha
RCM: Jakob Poulsen
CAM: Kristjan Dobras
ST: Robbie Kruse
ST: Ola Toivonen
Predicted match result
A Big Blue is more often than not a tight match, and despite Sydney FC having an almost fully fit squad compared to Melbourne Victory, I doubt this will change. I think that it will most likely be a 2-2 draw, but either team could likely get a late goal to win it.