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North Queensland Fury v Melbourne Victory preview

Of the four teams vying for the last two finals spots for the 2010/11 A-League season, the Melbourne Victory still holds the key.

The two-time A-League champions sit fifth on 34 points ahead of Melbourne Heart, Wellington Phoenix and Newcastle Jets but they certainly need a win tonight to help shore up a finals berth.

The Victory take on rock-bottom North Queensland Fury at Dairy Farmers Stadium in the second of two Australia Day clashes and will go into the fixture as favourites despite not winning for four matches.

The fact that the Fury were demoralized 8-1 by Adelaide United on Friday night will give the Victory some confidence heading into this but you can be sure the Townsville club will desperate to bounce back and redeem themselves from possibly the worst performance in A-League history.

Simon Storey, Gareth Edds and Chris Payne are all positive inclusions to Franz Straka's squad but they will surely need a miracle to turn around their form of seven losses in their last eight outings.

The big story coming out of the Victory is the suspension of inspirational skipper Kevin Muscat who produced a horror challenge in Saturday's 2-2 derby draw with the Heart.

There has been plenty of media coverage of this incident and it seems that Muscat's playing days are now numbered with his case going to the Disciplinary Committee who have the power to rub him out for at least six matches which would see his season end.

Maybe the Melbourne players will do this for Muscat but it is more likely they will simply want to pick up three points to give themselves every chance of qualifying for the play-offs.

The return of Adrian Leijer, who will slot straight back into central defence with the captain's armband is important, and I feel Ernie Merrick's men will have enough character to bounce back from the bad press the club has copped this week.

Verdict: Victory 2-0

North Queensland Fury vs. Melbourne VictoryDate: Wednesday, 26 January 2010 Venue: Dairy Farmers Stadium, Townsville Local kick-off: 7.00pm (8.00pm AEDT) Referee: Jarred Gillett Head-to-Head: All matches (played 5): North Queensland Fury wins 1, Melbourne Victory wins 2 (2 draws)

North Queensland Fury squad: 1. Justin PASFIELD (gk), 2. Jack HINGERT, 3. Brad McDONALD, 4. Eric AKOTO, 5. Mark HUGHES, 6. Ufuk TALAY (c), 7. Gareth EDDS, 8. Adam CASEY 11. David WILLIAMS, 12. Panagiotis NIKAS, 13. Andre KILIAN, 14. Chris GROSSMAN, 15.Chris PAYNE, 16. Simon STOREY, 17.Alex READ, 18. Brett STUDMAN, 19. Isaka CERNAK, 21. Jason SPAGNUOLO, 22. Lorenzo SIPI, 28. Sebastian USAI (gk) *five to be omitted* In: Adam CASEY (back from injury),Simon STOREY (back from injury), Gareth EDDS (back from injury), Alex READ (new signing), Chris PAYNE (promoted) Out: Nil Unavailable: Matthew HAM (knee - out for the season)

Melbourne Victory squad: 1. Michael PETKOVIC (gk), 3. Mate DUGANDZIC, 4. Petar FRANJIC, 7. Matthew KEMP, 8. Grant BREBNER, 9. RICARDINHO, 11. Marvin ANGULO, 12. Rodrigo VARGAS, 13. Diogo FERREIRA, 14. Billy CELESKI, 15. Tom PONDELJAK, 16. Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17. Matthew FOSCHINI, 18. Danny ALLSOPP, 19. Evan BERGER, 20. Sebastian MATTEI (gk), 23. Adrian LEIJER *two to be omitted* In: Evan BERGER (returns from injury), Adrian LEIJER (returns from injury), Petar FRANJIC (promoted) Out: Kevin MUSCAT (suspended) Unavailable: Leigh BROXHAM (calf), Archie THOMPSON (hamstring), Surat SUKHA (calf) Robbie KRUSE (International duty - 1 week)

Andrew Slevison
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Andrew Slevison

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