THURSDAY (JAN 26)
Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC (AEDT 1600)
This Australia Day fixture will be the most important game played so far this season. Only one place on the table separates these two teams, however sixth placed Sydney, currently holding the last finals spot, have a four point buffer over their southern rivals from Melbourne. New Victory boss Jim Magilton hasn’t experienced the honeymoon period fresh managers generally enjoy when team performances improve as the players try to impress the incoming coach and secure a spot in the starting line-up. In Magilton’s first two games in charge, Melbourne managed only a home draw against Adelaide and crushing defeat in Perth. The navy blue fortunes might be changing though, with Socceroo defender Mark Milligan signing a loan deal with the Victory until the end of the regular season. Milligan is likely to start this match in central defence alongside Adrian Leijer, while Fabio will return to his left back slot after missing the game against Perth through suspension and playmaker Carlos Hernandez should feature at some stage. Last weekend Sydney scored two late goals to beat bottom club Gold Coast 2-1, a win which snapped a four game losing streak for the sky blues. Sydney midfielder Terry Antonis will miss with a hamstring injury and manager Vitezslav Lavicka will need to decide whether to keep Rhyan Grant at right back, where the youngster has played so well recently, or draft him in to replace Antonis in midfield. Melbourne need to win this match because any other result means the season is just about over. On their home patch, on Australia Day and guided by their new manager, this is the just the stage for the Victory to start their charge to the finals.
Andy’s Bet: Melbourne to win @ 2.15 (TAB Sportsbet)