The first iteration of the Kosmina/Muscat Cup for Season 2013/14 is upon us, and both clubs will be keen to grab this fixture by the throat and shake loose the three points on offer.
Melbourne Victory played out a bore draw in a spiteful encounter with their cross-city rivals Melbourne Heart, with neither team able to find their rhythm. Harry Kewell literally spilled blood for the Heart in his first outing with his new team, while the Victory lacked the killer final pass which would normally come from Mark Milligan.
Adelaide claimed a pyrrhic 3-1 victory against Perth Glory, with two of their players receiving red cards from prolific referee Ben “Graham Poll” Williams. Sanchez Isaias and defender Nigel Boogard were the players to be sent off, leaving Head Coach Josep Gombau with a defensive hole to fill for tonight’s clash.
The Reds will be looking to grab the Victory around the scruff of the neck in front of their home fans, especially given the Victory’s lacklustre performance last week. With Boogard and Isaias out of the line-up, Gombau is bringing in Antony Golec, Jake Barker- Daish and young defender Jordan Elsey to bolster the squad.
Expect to see Adelaide employ a high defensive line and a very pressing game in an effort to keep the middle of the park compact. Michael Zullo did well out wide last week, so the Reds will look to their all-new short-passing game to bring the wide players into contention rather than go through the middle; Mark Milligan may prove too big an obstacle for a team still adjusting to their new system.
CASSIO (quad – 3-4 weeks),
Bruce DJITE (ankle – 4-5 weeks)
Adelaide’s possible starting XI: 4-3-3
Zullo Bowles McKain Golec
Lustica Carrusca Barker-Daish
Neumann Cirio Ferreria
The return of Mark Milligan and Kiwi Kosta Barbarouses will give the Victory team a boost after Pablo Contreras copped a two week ban for an errant elbow in Round 1. Milligan will slot straight back into the Victory midfield to provide some much-needed experience and spine, while Barbarouses should give the team some more bite in the final third.
Archie Thompson will hopefully return to his position playing off the shoulder of the last defender, instead of having to fetch the ball from deep in midfield like last week. Milligan’s passing ability should give Archie more confidence to push forward in the search of his first goal of the season.
So who is coming in for Contreras? He’s left his side in a bit of a lurch considering he was brought in to give an already-young defence some wisdom and experience. With only Milligan and Barbarouses coming into the squad, Nick Ansell will probably find himself starting in the centre of defence alongside Adrian Leijer, with Traore and Geria out wide.
Melbourne’s possible starting XI: 4-1-3-2
Geria Ansell Leijer Traore
Nichols Mahazi Barbarouses
Adelaide United: Jeronimo Neumann
The player who is a favourite of commentators all over the country will be looking to stretch his early lead in the hunt for the Golden Boot. With plenty of midfield and wide support, Neumann will have the freedom to create acres of space for himself. When he combines with Cirio and Ferreria, Neumann will prove a difficult prospect for the Victory defence.
Melbourne Victory: Mark Milligan
Without putting too fine a point on it, Milligan is the key to the Victory putting in a strong performance away from home. With the Victory backline containing so many youngsters, Milligan will need to work with Leijer to marshal the back four while still participating in attacking moves further up the park. Can his knee handle it?
For those unaware of why matches between these teams are called the Kosmina/Muscat Cup, you need only look at this image:
Then-Adelaide United coach John Kosmina had been knocked off his plastic chair by the incorrigible Victory player Kevin Muscat during a game in 2006 at Docklands. After returning to his feet, Kosmina showed Muscat just what he thought of him.
Adelaide went on to win that game 1-0. Yet it could be argued that the Victory had the last laugh a year later, when the 2007 A-League Grand Final between these two teams became a bloodbath, with the Melbourne boys romping home 6-0 after Archie Thompson bagged himself five goals.
Adelaide United will be looking to create breathing room at the top of the table by sending the Victory home empty-handed. It could be argued that Adelaide will be on the back foot this game with the loss of two starting players compared to the Victory, who are welcoming back two of theirs, however the vibrant Coopers Stadium crowd may prove the difference as they urge on the Reds to make it two wins in a row. The confidence gained from winning last week is a definite advantage to the Reds, but will those two red cards come back to haunt them?
The Victory, simply put, will be looking to spoil Adelaide’s plans by scoring a bunch of goals in front of the Adelaide crowd. They are stronger on paper than last week, and hate losing to Adelaide, but will all the speculation surrounding their coach and the national team have been a distraction to the players? Can their defence hold against some very talented Adelaide attacking options?
I predict Melbourne will give Adelaide a good fight and score a goal or two, but I think Adelaide, with their home advantage and additional confidence, will prevail.
But regardless of who wins, it’ll be a cracker of a game.
Adelaide 2 – 1 Melbourne