Melbourne Victory captain Ola Toivonen has left the struggling A-League giants, with the 33-year-old deciding to return to Europe.
Melbourne Victory are set to face Sydney FC in a massive Big Blue clash that kicks off at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium at 7:30 pm AEDT.
The Victory have been a hot and cold team so far this season. They were looking like they had finally regained their confidence and swagger with back-to-back wins against stadium-sharers Melbourne City and then a 4-0 thrashing of the Newcastle Jets, but it all came thundering down with a 3-2 loss to the Central Coast Mariners after conceding two penalties in injury time.
All of a sudden Marco Kurz was sacked and the club was turned upside down. Carlos Perez Salvachua, Kurz’s second assistant, was appointed head coach and they were on the rebuild.
After a disappointing 1-0 loss to Adelaide United in the original rivalry, they crushed Bali United 5-0 on Tuesday night which included goals for Migjen Basha, Robbie Kruse, Josh Hope, Ola Toivonen and the first goal in Melbourne colours for Elvis Kamsoba.
The Victory have also made a big move this transfer window, mutually terminating contracts with Corey Brown and Kristijan Dobras to make way for Marco Rojas, who serves his third stint at the club.
They have conceded 19 goals while scoring 17 in the A-League so far with a conversion rate of 13 per cent. However, they have kept the joint-most clean sheets with five.
Melbourne Victory have played 14 games to Sydney’s 13, currently sit 19 points behind Sydney FC and have played an extra game.
Melbourne Victory squad
The big headache for Salvachua is that starting centre-back James Donachie is suspended. Donachie has started all 14 of Melbourne Victory’s matches so far this season and has excelled. He has cleared the ball 68 times while making 19 interceptions and winning eight tackles.
Without Thomas Deng and Tim Hoogland, out with international duty and injury respectively, Salvachua may find it hard to replace him especially considering utility man Leigh Broxham is already out of position filling in at centre-back.
The most likely replacement is Benjamin Carrigan, who has been substituted on twice this A-League campaign and is a like-for-like replacement at centre-back.
Rojas is eligible to be selected to play in the Big Blue but will most likely start on the bench due to not having played regular first-team football for nearly a month now.
However, club captain Ola Toivonen will likely return to the starting 11.
Melbourne Victory predicted starting XI
GK: Lawrence Thomas
LB: Adama Traore
CB: Leigh Broxham
CB: Benjamin Carrigan
RB: Storm Roux
CDM: Anthony Lesiotis
CDM: Migjen Basha
LM: Elvis Kamsoba
CAM: Robbie Kruse
RM: Andrew Nabbout
ST: Ola Toivonen
Sydney FC is coming off the back of a bye, which will give them a well-needed rest. After playing against Melbourne City with ten men for 60 minutes, they then played an extremely intense game against Adelaide United in 40-degree heat before travelling to Newcastle six days later.
They currently sit eight points clear on the top of the table but with a game in hand against their nearest rivals, Melbourne City.
They sit top for goals scored with 30, one more than Melbourne City, and have conceded the second-fewest goals this campaign with only Perth Glory behind them. However, they have still only managed two clean sheets this season.
Sydney FC squad
The bad news for Sydney comes in the form of Brandon O’Neil announcing his departure from the club to Korean club Pohang Steelers. The move was coming but was a blow, who have stated that they will not be making any moves in the transfer market and trust that players such as Paulo Retre, Ryan Teague and Anthony Caceres have the ability to replace him.
In good news for the Sky Blues, they will be welcoming back two key players from suspension; Rhyan Grant returns from a two-game ban after a horrible challenge against Nathaniel Atkinson while Luke Brattan returns after a one-game suspension for accumulating five yellow cards.
On top of that, Michael Zullo will most likely have returned to full match fitness, which could see Sydney start their preferred starting 11 in this clash.
Sydney FC predicted starting XI
GK: Andrew Redmayne
LB: Michael Zullo
CB: Alex Wilkinson
CB: Ryan McGowan
RB: Rhyan Grant
CDM: Paulo Retre
CDM: Luke Brattan
LAM: Milos Ninkovic
RAM: Alex Baumjohann
ST: Adam Le Fondre
ST: Kosta Barbarouses
Predicted match result
I am going to predict a draw for this clash, with Melbourne Victory scoring early on due to Sydney FC having a bye but Melbourne then faltering at late stages of the game due to them having played what will be three games in seven days.