Come tonight, you will find only two types of people in the city of Melbourne: those in red, and those in blue. In one of the most eagerly anticipated matches of the season, Melbourne Heart hosts its biggest rival, Melbourne Victory, at AAMI Park.
Both Victory and Heart have been in good form recently. Victory’s 3-1 win over Wellington on the weekend was its most impressive performance of the year. In truth, they should have scored many more after going 3-0 up within 30 minutes, and the team’s key trio of Archie Thompson, Carlos Hernandez and Harry Kewell all went close to adding to the tally.
Meanwhile, its cross-town rival Melbourne Heart have flown up the ladder, and are now sitting pretty in third position after the team’s hard-fought 2-1 win over Perth Glory. In a match where both teams had chances, the game was won in the 87th minute when Mate Dugandzic headed home after Aziz Behich had his shot parried away. Heart have now picked up maximum points in five of their last six matches, and are well placed to do so again this weekend.
While this rivalry is still very young when compared to the likes of Barcelona vs Real Madrid, Celtic vs Rangers, or Manchester United vs Liverpool, the Melbourne derby has already had a very colourful history. In the first derby, not even a red card to Aziz Behich could stop Heart (who were just the new boys) winning 2-1. The match was humiliating for Victory, and Heart have not let them forget it. Last season, the Melbourne derby created headlines around the country after Kevin Muscat’s horrific tackle broke Adrian Zahra’s leg which resulted in an injury that the young Heart midfielder has not yet fully recovered from.
For Melbourne Heart to win:
It’s simple: they need to find a way to stop Victory striker, Archie Thompson. Thompson has been in the stellar form recently; the League’s all-time greatest scorer has found the back of the net six times this season, and has won a number of penalties for his team. Expect Heart’s experienced defenders Adrian Madaschi and Simon Colosimo to keep close tabs on Thompson throughout the match.
Mate Dugandzic, who left Victory to join Heart at the end of the last season, has been in fine form and will be looking to continue it against his former club. His five goals this season make him the club’s top scorer, and his pace is something that Heart will be looking to use. Dugandzic will need play well for Heart to win.
Heart will also be hoping that Victory’s marquee man, Harry Kewell, doesn’t find the sort of form that made him Australia’s golden boy over the past decade. In his past two matches Kewell has come much closer to scoring. He was denied a long range shot by a fine save from Eugene Galekovic in Victory’s game against Adelaide, and in the win over Wellington came oh-so-close to scoring what would have been a contender for goal of the year. Kewell nutmegged one defender, before cutting inside the box where he breezed past another three of Wellington’s backline. He then fired his shot over the cross bar with only the keeper to beat. If Kewell finds his shooting boots, Victory will be hard to stop.
For Melbourne Victory to win:
For Victory to win, they will need to close down a number of their former team mates. Aziz Behich has been turned into a marauding left-back whilst under the tutelage of John van’t Schip. In the match against Perth, Behich dominated the left side of the pitch and set up both of Heart’s goals. He was brilliant in the build up to their first goal; running down the wing, before passing the ball to Matt Thompson who fired home. Limiting his impact will be important.
Melbourne Heart’s captain, Fred, is also well known to Victory fans after helping their side win the title in 2007. He has the potential to blow the game wide open with his creativity and vision, however Victory are sure to use their intimate knowledge of Fred to shut him down. Mate Dugandzic will also need to be watched closely.
Victory will also need to hope that Mehmet Durakovic finds a starting line-up that will gel. It seemed that Durakovic had finally found a starting XI that he was happy with, after picking the same team for the past two games. In every other match this season he had tinkered with the starting line-up. Unfortunately for Victory, another reshuffle is necessary for the match against Heart, after Billy Celeski received a red-card late in last week’s game. Grant Brebner, Tom Pondeljak, or Marco Rojas will be expected to fill the role.
Who will win?
Heart’s recent form has been impressive, and morale is at an all time high within their camp. With this match being the first time they have played in front of their home fans in Melbourne in five weeks, Heart will be looking to give their supporters an early Christmas present.
Melbourne Victory will likely go into the match as underdogs, having won only three matches for the season. However, their front three of Hernandez, Kewell, and Thompson have been linking well the past few weeks, and this game might be the match where they wreak havoc.
Prediction: Heart 2 – 2 Victory