Saturday, February 6 from 7.30pm at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne – watch on Fox Sports
LEAGUE leaders the Western Sydney Wanderers travel to Melbourne to face the Victory at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night in this week’s match of the round.
It looms as a must-win match for the Victory ($2.28 to win with Crownbet.com.au) as a loss in round 18 could see the reigning premiers drop as low as sixth.
Kevin Muscat’s men were poor last week in Perth, dropping a vital game to the Glory 3-2.
The Victory were down to 10 men after Fahid Ben Khalfallah was shown a red card just before the hour mark, yet were within striking distance of a win after a Besart Berisha brace.
Poor discipline again haunted the Victory in the dying stages of the match.
Substitute Nick Ansell conceded a late penalty eight minutes before full-time, which gave the Glory the goal they needed to win and secure the three points.
Kevin Muscat lamented his side’s inability to remain composed throughout the 90 minutes.
“It’s very, very disappointing and frustrating, not only for myself, but everyone through (the club) because a few of our decisions cost us dearly. We looked like we were going to go on and win the game.” Muscat said.
“We were the team trying to create and be productive in that final third, but it just wasn’t to be and it’s a terrible night for us.”
Wanderers’ captain Nikolai Topor-Stanley acknowledged the threat the Victory will present despite their tough road loss.
“They’re still a good team and we certainly won’t be taking them lightly. They might not have got the desired results for them, but that’s their problem.” Topor-Stanley said.
“We’ll be prepared as always and ready for a good showdown.”
The Western Sydney Wanderers consolidated their position at the top of the table after recording a classy 4-3 win over Melbourne City at Pirtek Stadium on Friday night.
The Wanderers led 3-0 late in the match and were able to a fourth goal after City were able to draw within a goal in the dying stages of the game.
Tony Popovich was glowing of his team’s efforts in the post-match.
“It’s an extremely satisfying result. How close the game was at the end maybe takes the gloss off but I’ve told the players it was a brilliant win.” Popovich said.
“I said before the game if our performance was good, regardless of the result, we’re genuine contenders… the result just tops that off,”
“The performance was very good so we have to be genuine contenders.”
The Victory have dominated the Wanderers since 2013; winning five of their last six matches against the Asian Champions.
Odds provided by WilliamHill.com.au
Winner: Draw – $3.50
First goal scorer: Besart Berisha – $5.50
Correct score: 1-1 – $7.50
Western Sydney will be able to keep their slender lead at the top of the table in tact if they are able to record a win over the Victory at Etihad Stadium.
Melbourne’s finals credentials could take a huge hit if they are unable to at least secure a point against the Wanderers.
Wanderers’ striker Brendon Santalab believes that the Victory will need to lift considerably if they are to match his side on Saturday night.
“We’re feeling good and full of confidence,” Santalab said on Thursday.
“I feel as though all the pressure is on Victory this week.
“Last week they had a 3-2 loss in Perth and with the ACL coming up and their hectic schedule, I feel all the pressure is on Melbourne Victory.
“We’ve prepared well this week and are very excited to face the Victory after last week’s win which we probably should have won a little more comfortably,”
It will be an incredibly tight affair given there is so much on the line for both sides.
A tense contest should materialise on Saturday night and chances will be scarce across the 90 minutes.
The under market of 2.5 goals at $2.30 that William Hill are offering looks to be a great bet as a 1-1 draw seems like the likely outcome.
Expect a draw on Saturday night which will assist both sides heading into the latter stages of the season.