Victory v Sydney FC: 3 key match ups

Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC always dishes up goals and drama, and the next instalment of this Big Blue on Australia Day promises to be another ripper.

Both sides produced memorable wins last round so they will head to Etihad Stadium confident of claiming another big scalp.

We take a look at the three big match-ups which could go a long way to determining which hue of blue reigns supreme on Tuesday night.

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Victory marksman Besart Berisha v Sydney defender Jacques Faty

What a salivating – and potentially fiery – this head-to-head duel promises to be.

These two experienced imports thrive on the big matches and it doesn’t get much bigger than this 

It’s the sort of contest and atmosphere that often brings out the best in Besart. The Albanian simply loves taking on the Sky Blues.

His scoring record against Sydney is incredible and he has often been a thorn in their side over the years. Remember last year’s grand final?

Berisha bagged a brace in the first meeting between the sides back in Round 6 and his goal against Brisbane Roar last weekend takes his tally to 11 for the campaign.

He’s now just one behind City star and the league’s leading scorer Bruno Fornaroli. Can Berisha add to that tally by getting the better of Faty?

The Senegalese international is coming off his best game of the season in the Sky Blues’ smash-and-grab Sydney Derby win on Saturday night.

His communication, experience and combination with Matty Jurman has been a big reason why Graham Arnold’s side has the most miserly defence in the competition.

And he’s also a threat at set-pieces, as evidence by his goal against the Wanderers.

Faty, who is still stinging from being forced off with injury at 0-0 in last season’s grand final, wants payback and won’t shirk the battle with Berisha. 

Don’t take your eyes off this one for a minute!

Victory winger Kosta Barbarouses v Sky Blues full-back Rhyan Grant

Is there any hotter player in the Hyundai A-League over the last fortnight than Victory’s Kiwi international?

Barbarouses backed up his three assists in the 3-3 draw with the Mariners by scoring two goals last weekend in the 4-0 demolition of league-leaders Brisbane Roar.

After an inconsistent start to the campaign, the lightning-quick winger has definitely found his mojo.

And not before time with Victory desperately trying to stay in touch with the top echelon of the league.

It’s not just Barbarouses’ goal return which has been impressive but his ability to take a stranglehold on a match in the blink of an eye.

With speed to burn, 25 successful dribbles and 32 key passes to his name this season, Grant is sure to have his hands full at Etihad.

But if anyone can put the brakes on Barbarouses, the underrated Sky Blues utility is surely that man.

Grant did a fantastic job in shutting down wonderful Wanderer Romeo Castelen in the Sydney Derby, the Dutchman barely having an influence on the contest.

And the 24-year-old will be asked to perform similar duties in this one by coach Graham Arnold.

While Grant won’t get forward too much, that isn’t his job. If he can blunt Barbarouses, the Sky Blues have a great chance at securing another massive three points.

Grant’s stats also make for impressive reading, with 46 interceptions this season, while he’s won almost 85 percent of tackles.


Victory midfielder Oliver Bozanic v Sydney playmaker Milos Dimitrijevic

Both Bozanic and Dimitrijevic will be the first to admit they haven’t quite been at the best so far in 2015/16.

But the duo arguably both had their most productive displays of the season last weekend, playing key roles in important wins for their teams.

Could it be they are both building to a big second half of the season?

If so, this clash in the heart of midfield could determine which side dominates possession and increase their hopes of a win.

A busy-bee in the centre of the park, Bozanic is most effective when he is getting on the ball and playing it forward, preferably finding the feet of any of Victory’s front four.

The 27-year-old’s energy and work-rate is his biggest asset and you can be sure he’ll be biting into challenges whenever Dimitrijevic gets on the ball.

And Sydney will hope that is often because there’s no doubt the Serbian can be one of the more influential midfielders in the competition on his day (he was nullified in last season’s grand final thanks to some relentless Victory pressing). 

A crisp passer and not afraid to be given the ball in heavy traffic, Dimitrijevic is a key fulcrum for the Sky Blues and he’s starting to build a lethal combination with compatriot and namesake Ninkovic.

And his set-pieces are quality too, with his free-kick leading to Shane Smeltz’s winner against the Wanderers.

Victory would be foolish to give away too many corners or free-kicks around the box because the 31-year-old’s wicked delivery could cause problems.