One of the Hyundai A-League’s original rivalries takes centre stage in Erase Racism Round 22 of the Hyundai A-League this weekend at what should be a sold-out Coopers Stadium.
Kevin Muscat takes his rampant Melbourne Victory outfit to Coopers Stadium for a clash with significant title ramifications against Adelaide United on Saturday night.
While Victory won a thriller 3-2 on their last meeting, it was all square when they last met in Adelaide and this should be just as close.
We preview the three big match-ups among some heavyweight battles right across the pitch.
Adelaide playmaker Marcelo Carrusca v Victory midfielder Carl Valeri
What a contest this should be between the Reds’ chief creator and Victory’s master defensive midfielder.
This battle not only could go a long way to deciding which side emerges on top but also thrill what should be a close to a full house at Coopers Stadium.
Carrusca is probably in the best form of his Adelaide career, scoring six goals this season to go with his flair and creative play.
He not only has sensational close control and dribbling skills but his passing – both long and short – is crisp and accurate and able to unlock any defence.
If the Argentine is give time on the ball too turn and pick a pass or go on a run it will spell disaster for Victory.
But if anyone has the know-how to stifle Carrusca’s influence it’s Valeri.
The Socceroo midfielder has been largely an unsung hero of Victory’s strong season.
Valeri thrives on these enticing one-on-one battles and will relish trying to stop Adelaide’s main man.
This duel should have a bit of everything, some classy touches, incisive passing and one or two hefty tackles.
Who will prevail in the white-hot atmosphere of these two fierce rivals?
Reds defender Michael Marrone v Victory winger Fahid Ben Khalfallah
There’s arguably no more devastating player in the Hyundai A-League right now than Ben Khalfallah.
The Tunisian has been in scintillating form.
It’s not just his ability to take on and beat his marker which has caught the eye but Ben Khalfallah is also comfortable receiving the ball with his back to goal and wriggling free of trouble in tight areas.
He almost single-handedly dismantled Western Sydney Wanderers FC last weekend and Marrone will need to be at his best to have any hope of getting near him on Saturday night.
To be fair to the Adelaide right-back he has been in consistent form of late and he has the pace and physical strength to get in Ben Khalfallah’s face.
The test for Marrone will be staying concentrated and at the top of his game for the entire 90 minutes.
Adelaide striker Bruce Djite v Victory defender Nick Ansell
This could be quite a physical match-up between two players more than happy to throw their bodies around to get one over their opponents.
While Djite has the edge in Hyundai A-League experience, Ansell has shown he can be a dominant defenders in the competition for a long time and is thriving in his extended run in the Victory side.
The Reds attacker might not have scored as many goals as he would have liked this season but he is so important to Josep Gombau’s plans.
Djite’s presence means the likes of Carrusca, Sergio Cirio, Pablo Sanchez and Craig Goodwin get a bit more room and time on the ball which plays into Adelaide’s hands.
His burly frame means he has a great ability to hold off his defender and keep the ball and then bring his team-mates into his game with smart lay-offs.
Ansell’s job will be to try and get in front of Djite when he can and win possession or if not, make it very difficult for him to turn or find a team-mate with a pass.
Djite loves playing against Victory and will be up for the battle and would love nothing more than to dent their title hopes – and improve Adelaide’s – with a goal and big win for the home side.