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The whirlwind of summer fixtures in the A-League continues, as Round 13 finds a teetering Melbourne Victory host Newcastle Jets at AAMI Park on Saturday evening at 7:50pm (AEST). Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match.
Victory are backing up after losing to Adelaide on Wednesday night, while the Jets have had six days to recover from their most recent loss to Melbourne City last Sunday.
The difference in breaks could play a big part in this game. Victory are smarting after their loss to Adelaide, and have been severely down on form since Keisuke Honda’s hamstring ping.
Their four games without Honda have seen two draws, a loss and an extremely fortunate win against the Wanderers who had twice as many shots on target.
After eight successive wins before then, their recent poor form has enabled Perth to pull six points clear in top spot.
Honda cannot return soon enough for Victory, who will also be without centrebacks Niedermeier and Nick Ansell.
Newcastle’s recent form has also been poor: they haven’t won in three and also haven’t beaten the Victory in five matches, including a 1-0 loss in Round 3 and last season’s grand final.
Indeed their ladder position is diabolical for a grand-finalist, sitting seven points outside the top six and even further behind the peloton on form.
Playmaker Ronny Vargas is suspended for this one, and Brazilian import Jair has failed to make an impact in his debut season.
With the experienced Ben Kantarovski also missing, Newcastle will find it difficult to find any ascendency in the midfield and supply to the back-again striker Roy O’Donovan could be severely disrupted.
The real wildcard for this game will be Victory’s squad depth and legs. Kevin Muscat has handed debuts to youth players Josh Hope and Elvis Kamsoba in recent weeks, and with Raul Baena returning from injury he has some depth to draw on.
But it will be the weariness in the legs of experienced playmakers James Troisi, Kosta Barbarouses and Ola Toivonen that will prove the difference.
Muscat could gamble on resting one of these three players – but Toivonen’s recent goals are keeping Victory afloat, and leaving him could backfire badly.
If one thing is certain about this game, it’s that Victory will be desperate for a win to re-ignite their Premiership run.
Victory are ripe for an upset here. They’ll be tired and shell-shocked after Adelaide; and Newcastle has a talented squad that – unlike a team like the Wanderers – has the ability to find goals and cause a shock.
But Kevin Muscat will be seething about implications his Victory are a one-player team, and will wring every last ounce of effort out of his squad to get a result and re-assert their right to the flag.
Melbourne Victory 2 – Newcastle Jets 0