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A-League Preview: Melbourne derby takes centre stage

The Melbourne derby takes centre stage in round 21 of the A-League, while Central Coast and Perth desperately need wins.

Bottom-of-the-table Melbourne Heart somewhat surprisingly start as favourites against third-placed rivals Victory at AAMI Park on Saturday.

John van ‘t Schip’s men have won four straight matches, including a shock 1-0 victory over league leaders Brisbane last time out.

The run has given them some hope of making the top six, now just six points behind Central Coast with seven regular-season matches remaining.

Midfielder Orlando Engelaar’s return from injury has been a key to their run, while Mate Dugandzic has started to recapture some of his best form.

Victory are on a three-match winning run heading into the clash, but have the tough task of playing twice in four days.

Kevin Muscat’s side face Guangzhou Evergrande in the AFC Champions League on Wednesday before returning from China for the derby.

They may still be conceding goals – their last clean sheet was in mid-December – but their attack with Gui Finkler, James Troisi, Tom Rogic and Archie Thompson is in good form.

Sixth-placed Central Coast, who are also in Champions League action in mid-week, host Sydney on Saturday.

Phil Moss’ men are on a four-match losing run they desperately need to end if they want to play finals.

The Mariners have struggled to replace the players they lost in January in Michael McGlinchey (loaned to Vegalta Sendai), Trent Sainsbury (PEC Zwolle) and Daniel McBreen (Shanghai SIPG).

In one of the matches of the round, Adelaide host Wellington on Thursday.

Josep Gombau’s Adelaide suffered a 4-3 loss last time out and sit fifth, while the in-form Phoenix are seventh.

Perth Glory could slip to the bottom of the table as they prepare for a clash against the Brisbane Roar, who are four points clear at the top despite back-to-back losses, on Friday.

Winless in their past six matches, and whenever former Arsenal and Chelsea defender William Gallas has played, the Glory need to turn their horror run around, while the veteran Frenchman will be keen to improve on a horror showing in Perth’s 2-0 loss last week.

Western Sydney should fancy their chances at home to Newcastle on Sunday despite also being in Champions League action during the week.

Tue 25 February, 2014
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