Aggression, concentration crucial for City against Victory

Ahead of Saturday’s showdown between Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City, Goal looks at the previous contests between these two teams – and examines their Opta statistics – to determine where the battle for bragging rights will be won and lost.

Pressing the secret to derby success

City began both of the previous two derbies this season at a blistering pace, keeping their shape well and pressing Victory aggressively to unsettle Kevin Muscat’s team and shut off their passing options.

It worked to an extent in the first half of the Round 3 clash at Etihad Stadium, a game Van ‘t Schip’s team led twice in and were level at 2-2 going into the break.

Midfielders Massimo Murdocca and Aaron Mooy kept Victory’s two holders Mark Milligan and Carl Valeri quiet in the opening 45 minutes but couldn’t press with the same consistency as the match continued. Eventually Victory were able to break the shackles altogether, romping clear to a 5-2 triumph.

In the second meeting in December, Victory were without Milligan and had Leigh Broxham partnering Valeri in the middle. City meanwhile had Jacob Melling, a revelation this season and a hugely energetic presence, starting with Mooy in front of the screening Erik Paartalu. Milligan has since won the Asian Cup with Australia but is still suspended for elbowing Terry Antonis in December and will be missed again by the Big V.

The other key factor that made a difference to City’s ability to apply and maintain a consistent press was the absence of guest player David Villa. It’s not often a team is better off without a World Cup and UEFA Champions League winner, but the Spaniard’s reluctance to work hard in the final third during the first derby of the season contributed to his team’s eventual defeat.

In December City’s front three of David Williams, Mate Dugandzic and Iain Ramsay had no hesitation harrying Victory’s defence as they attempted to play out from the back, evidence of the importance of having all 11 players pulling in the same direction, regardless of their rank or standing in the game.

Possession the reward for winning the arm-wrestle 

The difference in possession and passing statistics between the two meetings tells the story of that pressing battle and its different outcomes.

In Round 3 Victory finished up with 54.8 percent of the ball and played 420 passes to City’s 350.

Eight rounds later it was City who had marginally more of the ball at 50.6 percent, with 352 passes to Victory’s 345 – a drop of 75 passes for Victory from the previous derby clash.

City had a remarkable 21 shots on goal in that game to Victory’s 10. The contrasting numbers is testament to the importance of Van ‘t Schip’s side applying and maintaining efficient, focused pressure on Victory when the Big V are in possession.

Melbourne Derby infographic

Both backlines under the microscope

Given one team claims to have genuine title aspirations and another hopes to mount a successful challenge for a finals berth, neither of these sides have been good enough at the back this season.

Adelaide United (14), Wellington Phoenix (17) and Sydney FC (16) have all conceded fewer goals than Victory (18), while City have shipped 25 in 15 matches. That’s five more than bottom-placed Western Sydney Wanderers and four more than Brisbane Roar, who are City’s nearest challengers in seventh-placed. Only the Central Coast Mariners (26) and Newcastle Jets (35) have let in more.

For their 1-0 derby win in December there were three important changes to City’s backline from the team thumped in Round 3. Tando Velaphi had taken over from Andrew Redmayne in goal, while Connor Chapman and Ben Garuccio were in for Robbie Wielaert and Ramsay at centre-back and left-back respectively.

Velaphi was rarely tested by his former team and the jury remains out on the ex-Glory man as a long-term solution to City’s goalkeeping problems. Suspended for last weekend’s 2-1 win at home to Western Sydney, Velaphi was replaced by Redmayne, who was at fault for the Wanderers’ goal.

Chapman and Garuccio both produced strong performances in the Round 11 win. The latter went off injured at AAMI Park on Sunday afternoon and could be replaced by Jack Clisby, a mid-season signing from Perth. The 22-year-old will be tasked with keeping the dangerous Kosta Barbarouses quiet on Victory’s right flank. 

Victory conceded to Paartalu from a late corner to give up their unbeaten A-League record against City in December. Defending set-pieces has been a problem for Muscat’s men in 2014-15, exacerbated by Matthieu Delpierre’s long stint on the sidelines with a foot problem. 

Jason Geria, Nick Ansell, Adrian Leijer and Dylan Murnane started that game but at least one change can be expected for this one, with Daniel Georgievski likely to start at left-back.

City swung in plenty of crosses and frequently worried the Wanderers in the air on Sunday. Expect them to target Victory aerially as well this weekend. It may stating the obvious, but if one of these two shaky defences can lift their game and keep it tight this weekend, they’ll give their team a far better chance of coming out on top.