Semi Final Preview: Brisbane Roar vs. Melbourne Victory

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After a weekend off, the finals have finally arrived for Brisbane as Melbourne come to town to fight it out for a spot in next weekends Grand Final and the two sides couldn’t have had more contrasting build-ups. Brisbane have had what some would consider the ideal preparation with a weekend off to freshen up, while the Victory have been playing both in the Elimination Finals, and then flying to South Korea and back on AFC Champions League duty.

Despite that this weekend’s game should yet another close contest, as most of the games this season between the two sides have proven to be. For the majority of the time Brisbane have shown they are capable of breaking down the Victory defence and creating good goal scoring chances, while the Victory have had some success against Brisbane in the transition game and will no doubt take notice of the job Phil Moss and Mariners did in Brisbane two weekends ago. Victory aren’t all about just counter-attacking and transition, but against Brisbane that’s the way they’ve gone into games this season, especially since Kevin Muscat has come in to replace Postecoglou and I see no reason why Sunday’s game will be any different. Brisbane should have more of the ball, but they must create the chances they couldn’t against the Mariners, and they also must be wary of threat in transition the likes of Thompson, Barbarouses and Troisi will provide. One are Brisbane will have a massive advantage is in the fresh legs department, especially as the game progresses and possibly into extra time. That will only be a factor however if they can replicate the free-flowing football we’ve seen all reason, using the width and dragging Melbourne out of position.

One interesting sub plot to the game is surrounding Besart Berisha, who will make his first appearance of the season against Melbourne, the side he’s agreed to join as the marquee player from next season. Im sure he’ll be up for it big time on Sunday, looking no doubt to prove a point that he’s still 100% committed to the cause here in Brisbane. Hopefully that enthusiasm and passion exudes itself in goals like we’ve seen for nearly three seasons now, rather than the rash and reckless challenges we’ve seen in recent weeks.

Form:
Brisbane:
LDWWD
Melbourne: WWDDL*
* A-League only.

Top Scorer:
Brisbane: Besart Berisha (11)
Melbourne: James Troisi (12)

Brisbane Roar squad:
1.Michael Theo (GK), 2.Matthew Smith (C), 3.Shane Stefanutto, 5.Ivan Franjic, 7.Besart Berisha, 8.Steven Lustica, 10.Henrique, 11.Liam Miller, 13.Jade North, 14.Diogo Ferreira, 15.James Donachie, 16.Jean Carlos Solórzano, 17.Matt McKay, 18.Luke Brattan, 19.Jack Hingert, 20.Matthew Acton (GK), 22.Thomas Broich, 23.Dimitri Petratos (Two To Be Omitted)
In: 14.Diogo Ferreira (Promoted), 16.Jean Carlos Solórzano (Promoted)
Out: Nil
Unavailable: 25.George Lambadaridis (Knee – Season)

Brisbane are going into the finals with what is seemingly the perfect preparation. Not only have they had a fortnight off after the loss to the Mariners, but Mike Mulvey essentially has a full squad to choose from. Mulvey has pretty much flagged his intentions when it comes to the starting line-up, which is expected to mirror the side that lost to the Mariners two weeks ago. Despite some recent criticisms over his age and form Shane Stefanutto will start the game at left back, over the younger Diogo Ferreira who has been in good form in his last couple of appearances. The bigger intrigue for Brisbane will likely surround who is going to be on the bench and more specifically will striker Jean Carlos Solórzano earn a place back in the squad. I think that ultimately he will regain his spot on the substitute’s bench, in place of one of the defenders.

Expected Starting XI:
Theo, Franjic, North, Smith, Stefanutto, Miller, Brattan, McKay, Petratos, Broich, Berisha.
Substitutes: Acton, Donachie, Lustica, Henrique, Solórzano.

Melbourne Victory squad:
1.Nathan Coe (GK), 2. Pablo Contreras, 3.Adama Traore, 4.Nick Ansell, 5.Mark Milligan (C), 6.Leigh Broxham, 7.Gui Finkler, 9.Kosta Barbarouses, 10.Archie Thompson, 11.Connor Pain, 13.Andrew Nabbout, 14.James Troisi, 16.Rashid Mahazi, 17.James Jeggo, 20.Lawrence Thomas (GK), 22.Jesse Makarounas, 23. Adrian Leijer, 25.Jason Geria (Two to be omitted)
In: 23. Adrian Leijer (returns from injury), 22. Jesse Makarounas (promoted), 13. Andrew Nabbout (promoted)
Out: 24. Scott Galloway (hamstring – tbc)
Unavailable: 21. Tom Rogic (groin – tbc)

Victory will be going into this game on the back of a midweek trip to South Korea which ultimately saw them fall just short of a knockout round spot against Jeonbuk. They did however leave a couple of key players at home for the midweek trip, including skipper Mark Milligan, top scorer James Troisi and Gui Finkler who isn’t in their ACL squad, so they will have some reinforcements waiting for them here in Australia. Adrian Leijer returned from injury in the Champions League, however after limping off injured he may only be fit enough to start on the bench which would result in young Nick Ansell starting alongside Contreras, while Rogic is still out with that groin injury. With Galloway injured ex Roar NYL defender Jason Geria will come into the side, as will another ex Brisbane player Kosta Barbarouses- along with the rested Milligan, Finkler and Troisi. There may be some rotation due to tired legs, but with the season on the line now with no more Champions League you’d expect them to go for it.

Expected Starting XI:
Coe, Geria, Contreras, Leijer, Traore, Broxham, Milligan, Finkler, Troisi, Barbarouses, Thompson.
Substitutes: Thomas, Ansell, Jeggo, Pain, Nabbout.

Meetings this season:

Round 3:
Melbourne Victory
(1) Troisi
Brisbane Roar (0)

The backdrop of this game was really the main story as this was Ange Postecoglou’s final game in charge of the Victory before he left to take over the Socceroos job, and Melbourne sent him out a winner with the only goal from James Troisi. The goal –which to date is the only one the Victory have scored against Brisbane this season- came in transition down their left hand side as Troisi made a run that was left un-tracked before beating Theo from a narrow angle. Melbourne had the better of the game that night at Docklands it has to be said, however that’s not to say Brisbane didn’t have some positive aspects to their play. While on the day they struggled to create any clear cut chances, they did have a lot of nice play, with the full-backs getting forward often on the day. Unfortunately there were largely limited to shots from outside the penalty area.

Round 13:
Melbourne Victory
(0)
Brisbane Roar (3) Miller, Petratos, McKay

Well if in the first meeting Brisbane failed to create the scoring chances, they certainly did so in this meeting at the Swan St. Stadium including what was one of the goals of the season with 28 consecutive passes in the build-up from Liam Miller. Another well worked goal for McKay and a third from an inform Dimitri Petratos made sure of the points. Victory couldn’t deal with the pace, movement and speed of play on the day in what was one of Brisbane’s best performances of the season- if not the best with the hosts struggling to get out of their half at times. They did however have a chance early on in the game where Theo denied Barbarouses which could have seen the game head in a completely different direction.

Round 24:
Brisbane Roar
(1) Brattan
Melbourne Victory (0)

This game was billed as the coronation for Brisbane to secure the Premiership, and after a tense 90 minutes Brisbane were infact crowned Premiers following a long range strike for Luke Brattan. The game itself saw Brisbane create a host of fantastic chances, with young Victory goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas pulling out a string of impressive saves to keep his side in the game. Victory still looked to counter on the night –albeit with less success-, however with the signing of Tom Rogic they were more capable of holding onto the ball. It was once again Barbarouses who had the best chance for Melbourne, however he was once again denied- this time by Diogo Ferreira.

So all up Brisbane have picked up six points out of nine against the Victory, scoring four goals to just one for their opponents. Perhaps more pertinently they have won both games against the Muscat coached Melbourne, while also having the better of the game on both occasions to date.

Tale of the tape:
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