2016-17 Semi Final Preview- MVC v BRI

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After last weeks latest A-League finals drama at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane Roar find themselves travelling to Melbourne to try and book a place Grand Final against Sydney FC after they beat Perth Glory 3-0 on Saturday night.

While that Elimination Final win over the Wanderers was another great night at home for Brisbane in the finals, looking forward it presented a host of problems for this weekend given the emotional high the players would have been on after winning a game in the penalty shootout, in addition to the obvious physical fatigue it would of done.

Adding to the problems for John Aloisi is the midweek fixture in Thailand where Brisbane’s chance to progress to the last 16 of the Asian Champions League were ended by Muanthong United, and while the majority of the first XI stayed back in Brisbane to prepare for this weekends final those who did travel will probably struggle fitness wise the longer the game goes.

The good news for John Aloisi however is that he now has almost the full squad available for selection at the business end of the season, with only Michael Theo and Daniel Bowles unavailable due to injury.

What have they done lately?
While Brisbane have been busy dealing with the intensity of the Elimination Finals and the travel demands the Asian Champions League presents, Melbourne Victory have been quietly preparing for this weekends Semi-Final.

Kevin Muscat’s side will have gone 15 days without a game heading into this weekends clash after a 1-0 win over Central Coast Mariners on the Friday night of Round 27. Since then Brisbane have played three times, including the drama of the Elimination Final last week.

Form wise though there are plenty of people who’ve been asking questions of the Victory, who will enter the game with just two wins from their last five games after a 1-0 loss away to Sydney FC in Round 22 essentially ended their already slim Premiers Plate hopes.

Adding to the woes for Melbourne is the lack of goals since that loss to Sydney, with just five goals in five games, and four of those came in Round 23 against Perth Glory. Have Kevin Muscat’s men simply been tapering for the finals after realising the Premiership was gone and top 2 was essentially locked up, or are there bigger problems? Either way we’ll probably find out this weekend.

Recent Form
Brisbane- WWLWW
Melbourne- WDLLW

Top Scorer
Brisbane- Jamie Maclaren (20)
Melbourne- Besart Berisha (19)

This season against Melbourne Victory
Round 1- Brisbane Roar 1-1 Melbourne Victory
Round 15- Melbourne Victory 3-2 Brisbane Roar
Round 24- Brisbane Roar 1-0 Melbourne Victory

This seasons three games were all played in very different circumstances, with the opening game of the season baring some comparisons to the Elimination Final of the previous season in terms of the result, but it was a game lacking the intensity as the two sides got a feel for the new season.

With Brisbane’s poor record away in Melbourne in recent times they were probably thankful to only be making the trip to AAMI Park against the Victory once this season, however the ghosts of past visits returned to haunt John Aloisi side as Melbourne essentially put the game to bed inside the first half hour when they exploded to a 3-2 lead. Brisbane worked hard to get back into the game, however they were unable to capitalise on a 10 man Victory side for over half an hour in search of the equaliser.

The most recent game is one which in truth should be discounted due to the Victory playing the game without their entire front four who were on international duty, although the game did spark a late season goal rush for Jamie Maclaren which has propelled the Roar into the second last week of the season.

It’s hard to tell which of the three games will be indicative of how today’s game will pan out, however id lean towards the game mostly being along the a similar path to the first and third, with a close contest where goals are at a premium the most likely.

The biggest trend from the three games is that Victory have been dominant in terms of both territory and possession in all three games this season, while the Roar have been excellent at picking them off on the counter attack.

Expected Line-ups
As mentioned John Aloisi now has an almost fully fit squad at his disposal, however that now gives him the proverbial dilemma of who to select for this game. It’s likely that Aloisi will have three key decisions to make, at centre back, central midfield and on the bench.

With Jack Hingert once again fit to play at right full-back, one of Jade North, Luke DeVere or Avram Papadopoulos will miss out, with Luke DeVere the likely candidate given his inclusion against Muanthong.

In midfield the return of Matt McKay is a massive boost, however Aloisi will need to decide if he should return via the substitute’s bench after missing six weeks with a knee injury, or does the he bring the club captain straight back in place of impressive youngster Joe Caletti.

Finally, the return to fitness of Manuel Arana in his cameo against Muanthong United on Wednesday will see him enter the race for a bench spot, with Nicholas D’Agostino the most likely to miss out.

Brisbane XI- Young, Hingert, North, Papadopoulos, Brown, Kristensen, McKay, Holman, Borrello, Broich, Maclaren.
Substitutes- Bilic, DeVere, Caletti, Oar, D’Agostino.
Omitted- Pepper, Arana.

The biggest decision for Kevin Muscat will be surrounding one of his most trusted players in the shape of Leigh Broxham, and if he chooses to deploy him in his natural centre midfield role or at left back. The return of Daniel Georgievski will likely see Broxham join James Troisi and captain Carl Valeri in the middle of the park, with the likes of Stefan Nigro and Rashid Mahazi waiting in the wings should he start on the left side of defence.

Outside of that one decision, the rest of Melbourne’s starting XI is largely settled, with James Donachie seemingly winning the battle with Nick Ansell to start alongside Alan Baro in central defence, while Jai Ingham is likely to once again be cast in the role of super-sub despite his assist in the Round 27 win over Central Coast.

Melbourne XI- Thomas, Geria, Baro, Donachie, Georgievski, Broxham, Valeri, Troisi, Rojas, Ben Khalfallah, Berisha.
Substitutes- Acton, Ansell, Mahazi, Austin, Ingham.
Omitted- Nigro, Howard.

Previous Finals against Melbourne Victory
2014 Semi-Final- Brisbane Roar 1-0 Melbourne Victory
2016 Elimination Final- Brisbane Roar 2-1 Melbourne Victory

The two previous finals encounters between these sides have been decided by thrilling finishes at Suncorp Stadium in favour of Brisbane Roar, with the home side prevailing in the two previous games.

It was a Besart Berisha goal early in the second half who scored the sole goal in the 2014 Semi-Final, although Melbourne Victory had some strong claims for a penalty after a stoppage time challenge by Matt Smith on Mark Milligan and were extremely unlucky to be denied the chance to send the game into extra time.

Fast-forward two years and we arrive at last years Elimination Final between the defending Champion Victory and a wounded Brisbane side who had the chance to claim the Premiership from the Victory down in Melbourne but failed to do so.

That 0-0 draw set up a second straight fixture between the two sides and Victory would have thought that a late goal from Besart Berisha was enough to send them back to the Semi-Finals, however it wasn’t to be. Barely 60 seconds later Matt McKay levelled the scores for the Roar, before Thomas Broich scored a 94th minute winner from a Corona corner which sent Brisbane through to the Semi-Finals at Victory’s expense.

All-Time Record against Melbourne Victory

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