FOR one contingent of Melbourne soccer fans, Christmas will be a little sweeter this year.
The derby between Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City is the highlight of an action-packed A-League weekend.
In what looms as one of the most important regular season contests between the two teams since City entered the competition, the match has the potential – even at this stage of the season – to shape the title aspirations for both squads.
The Victory is in dire need of a win after two losses in a row.
After a losing to Wellington over in New Zealand, the Victory were comprehensively smashed by league leaders, the Western Sydney Wanderers, going down 2-0.
Unfortunately for the reigning premiers; the journey only gets tougher from here.
Kevin Muscat’s men will travel to Perth next Wednesday night to face the Glory in the make-up match for the contest they missed in round five due to the FFA Cup, which means the Victory will be playing two games in four days.
Compound that with the loss of captain Carl Valeri for potentially the remainder of the season with inflammation of the brain and Victory manager Kevin Muscat will have a multitude of selection dilemmas on his hands.
Melbourne City are flying at the moment with three consecutive wins, which has seem them leapfrog their rivals on the ladder into third position.
City’s scoring has been a feature of their three-win run, with an incredible 14 goals scored by the men in white.
Melbourne City’s Aaron Mooy is the form player of the competition, and looms as the man to stop if the Victory are to arrest their slide down the ladder.
The Victory have made the derby their own in recent times – winning the last three meetings between the teams.
Kevin Muscat confident the Victory can turn around their poor form despite tough run
After looking like going back-to-back this season could be a formality, the Victory look to have a crisis on their hands.
Losses to Western Sydney and Wellington have seen the Victory slide from the top of the ladder down to fourth.
To make matters worse, the Victory have a scheduling nightmare to compete with.
A tough road trip to Perth along with a huge Melbourne derby separated by just four days means Victory manager Kevin Muscat has his work cut out for him if he is to arrest his team’s slide down the ladder.
If the Victory manager is worried about his team though, he certainly keeping those concerns in-house.
Speaking in the aftermath of the loss to the Wanders, Muscat said making the most of their opportunities will see the Victory’s fortunes change dramatically.
“We came up against a side (Wanderers) that was good on the night also and in the main moments they took their goals.” Muscat said.
“We’ve had a little bit of a tough spell and we travel to Perth on Wednesday looking to right a few wrongs.”
Despite the tough upcoming run, Muscat believes his coaching staff will have the solution to see the Victory rise back towards the top of the ladder.
“Winning this competition is not easy and along the way there’s some difficult challenges you have to overcome.
“It’s our responsibility as a staff to find the solutions for those challenges and then it’s down to the players to implement it.”
If the Victory are to get their title defence back on track they will need to take at very least take three points from the two upcoming matches this week.
Odds provided by Sportsbet.com.au
Winner:Melbourne City – $2.70
First goal scorerBruno Fornaroli – $6.00
A battle between the sporting capital of Australia’s two A-League franchises looms as the match of the season so far with the high flying City taking on the reigning premiers the Melbourne Victory.
City is in red-hot form, scoring 14 goals in the past three matches, with superstar midfielder Aaron Mooy the architect through the middle of the park.
Despite being the source of rampant transfer speculation, City is confident their midfield general will remain at the club for the entirety of the 2015/16 season.
Along with Mooy, Uruguayan striker Bruno Fornaroli has been the standout for his side, netting a league leading nine goals this campaign.
Fornaroli is $2.30 favourite with Crownbet to be the league’s top scorer in the 2015/16 A-League season
The Victory have not scored in their past two matches, with the normally prolific Besart Berisha failing to find the bat of the net from open play in over a month.
If ever Kevin Muscat needed his front men to fire; it is this week in the derby.
The Victory have dominated City in their hometown matchups recently, winning the last three meetings between the two; but that should change on Saturday night.
Expect City to keep their winning run intact; condemning the Victory to another agonising loss in the process.