The Vice Sports Official A-League Grand Final Preview: Sydney FC vs Melbourne Victory
With three Big Blue wins from three starts this season, Sydney FC head into the final as red hot favourites. On the flip side Victory has beaten FC in their past three grand finals.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Sydney FC vs Melbourne Victory
Allianz Stadium (aka the Sydney Football Stadium), Sunday, May 7th, from 5 pm AESTD.
Sydney FC: With 11 goal assists and nine goals this season, Sydney FC's Serbian striker, Milos Ninkovic, is the danger man up front. The Johnny Warren Medal winner's success this season has been hallmarked by his work off the ball, often racking up more kilometres in a match than his midfielders Josh Brilliante and Brandon O'Neill.
When paired with a midfield led by captain Alex Brosque in the best form of his career you're beginning to understand why Sydney FC were responsible for the greatest winning streak in Australian football history this year.
Melbourne Victory: Where else but the World Game can you have a Serbian at one end and Kosovo's very own, Besart Berisha for Melbourne Victory at the other; two nations with a war-torn past and who almost went at it again just a few months ago.
That will be the furthest thing from this pair's mind as line up on Sunday, with the A-League's Golden Boot winner, Berisha, hoping to steer Victory to a fourth grand final victory over FC having scored the opener in their 3-0 demolition of the Sky Blues in the 2015/16 decider.
Their stacked midfield, meanwhile, comprised of internationals James Troisi (Socceroos), the 'Kiwi Messi,' Marco Rojas and Jai Ingham (New Zealand) and French-Tunisian veteran, Fahid Khalfallah will be primed for the occasion and well suited to the high-pressure, sudden death scenario of a grand final.
Victory bring the best shot conversion in the league (18.9%) into the final compared to Sydney (17.4%) in third. They have also scored the first goal in two of the Big Blues this year only to go on to lose the match.
Sydney FC: Based largely on the efforts of the tireless Alex Brosque, FC's "front press" defensive style has been the mainstay of what can only be described as a daunting defensive record this season.
They conceded just 12 goals in the 27-game season while their clean sheet against Perth Glory in the semi-finals was an unprecedented 17th for the season.
KeeperDanny Vukovic's save percentage of 86% for all shots on target is the best in the league. Meanwhile, a breakthrough season for Rhyan Grant will no doubt present in a handful of dangerous counter-attacking raids on Sunday.
Melbourne Victory: A big part of this equation will be Carl Valeri's battle with Sydney striker, Milos Ninkovic. Valeri, a veteran of 12 years in Italian football and 50 Socceroo caps, is a defensive adonis ordinarily, though along with his teammates at the back, has failed to thwart Sydney on all three occasions this season.
What a sad story this pitch debacle has become. It's a classically Australian stitch-up really with three football codes (rugby league, rugby union and football) asked to share the same stadium.
The result is a pock-marked, chewed-up, dog's breakfast of a playing surface described by Victory defender, Daniel Georgiveski as "dreadful."
"It's dreadful. You can't be playing a semi-final — and now a final — on a ground like I saw on Saturday night.
"Hopefully they pull their socks up and make the pitch as good as they can. The stadium itself is absolutely fine, but you need to fix that pitch up for a grand final."
With three Big Blue wins from three starts this season, Sydney FC ($1.39) head into the final as red hot favourites against Victory ($2.29). On the flip side Victory having beaten FC in their past three grand finals. The most recent of which came in 2015/16 and saw Victory striker, Besart Berisha star.
1-1 at full-time (Sydney FC to win in overtime).
Victory have scored first in two of their encounters against this season only to go on and lose. Watch out for an early goal for Victory and a bad case of the yips for the seemingly unbeatable, Sydney FC.
"We played on that pitch. It's not really been that great all season to be honest, but it's never affected us which is good. The way we press and that, sometimes it works in our advantage. Obviously being a final, you'd like to play on a carpet, but it is what it is and you can't whinge about it. Both teams have got to play on it." – Sydney attacker, David Carney.
"There's pressure on both teams. It's a final. It's all or nothing so obviously all credit to them, they've had a great season, but I said it a couple of months ago, 'we'll see them in the final'. The table doesn't lie in terms of the points, both teams deserve to be there." – Victory attacker, James Troisi.