Monday, February 08, 2010
The initiative for the encounter must be with the hosts, with both Kevin Muscat and Archie Thompson unavailable. True, Melbourne did well to shrug off the absence of the two in seeing off North Queensland, but Sydney at the SFS are a somewhat different proposition to a side featuring Beau Busch in the starting eleven.
Carlos Hernandez, undoubtedly the player of the season, is the key man. My mind goes back to the season's opening game, when the Mariners managed to crowd Hernandez out by compressing the midfield. Viteszlav Lavicka will be loath to tinker with his established first eleven, but would he be tempted to add Rhyan Grant to the mix, in order to stiffen the engine room? Stuart Musialik had an insipid game against Perth, and may not be up to policing Melbourne's talismanic playmaker on his own.
Musialik's indifferent form aside, there are problems for Sydney. The dramatic nature of yesterday's win served to disguise some worrying signs heading into the finals: Karol Kisel looks out of touch, while both of the fullbacks are still somewhat uncomfortable in their roles - not that Melbourne's strength is in the wide areas.
John Aloisi's two goals put some gloss on his performance, which was otherwise, as so often, blunt. Lastly, Steve Corica can hardly count on being given the run of the country as he was by the flaccid Perth midfield in the first half. He did, however, look more incisive than he usually does at this stage of the season.
Melbourne will miss Muscat's ability to initiate attacks from deep, and Thompson's trickery in and around the box. On the plus side, Marvin Angulo looks a good addition, and the defence still looks solid enough. The Mrdja signing? Plenty has been said about it elsewhere, but no-one seems to have mentioned what to me is the key point: whatever happened to the A-League's determination to have clubs dip into their youth ranks for injury replacements? That laudable commitment has quietly gone out the window.
Sunday's match will be a beauty. 2-1 to Sydney is my pick, in a repeat of a similar occasion four years ago.
I would rather see Grant (maybe Payne) go to McFlynns spot and McFlynn move to DM. McFlynn has been historically quite good at nullifying specific opposition players.
There is no way Lavicka changes the team though.