Round 19 of NPL Victoria pits second against third and fourth against fifth.
Port Melbourne Sharks v Green Gully
After following up its win over GV Suns with a point against third-placed Heidelberg United, Port Melbourne will head into this clash with confidence as it looks to take another step closer to safety.
A convincing win on the scoreboard may also see the Sharks leapfrog Green Gully, adding a bit more spice to the contest. Green Gully is on a three-game losing streak and a relegation fight is becoming a real possibility if its form does not pick up soon.
With a tough run home until the end of the season, Gully will want to get back to winning ways sooner rather than later.
Northcote City v South Melbourne
The previous meeting between the two ended up being a blowout in favour of eventual champion Northcote City. Things will be different this time around, with South Melbourne running away at the top of the league, while Northcote City is well out of championship contention sitting in 6th place.
Northcote is on good run at the moment, and is unbeaten in five games, but South Melbourne has won its past five to extend its lead on the ladder to nine points. It will also be the first time NPL top-scorer Milos Lujic and Michael Eagar return to play at John Cain Memorial Park, and both will be looking to get one over their former club.
Goulburn Valley Suns v Melbourne Knights
The Suns have finally picked up their second win of the season, but will have to show more determination to beat a much-improved Melbourne Knights.
Having just held on against Green Gully, Goulburn Valley Suns will want to avoid more nervy finishes. Knights’ recruits Stipo Andrijasevic and Jordan O’Doherty have impressed since signing for the club, with the latter even getting a run-out for Melbourne Victory in the A-League side's pre-season friendly against Bentleigh Greens in mid-week.
After the derby heartbreak last weekend, the Knights will be keen to bounce back with a win over the league’s bottom side.
Dandenong Thunder v Pascoe Vale
Dandenong Thunder is inching closer to the wrong end of the ladder with each week that passes, and need to make more of its home advantage this weekend.
Meanwhile Pascoe Vale will be keen to get back on the park after having its fixture against Ballarat abandoned after 67 minutes. Goalkeeper Stefaan Sardelic and forward Luca Santilli are out with injuries sustained in that clash, and Pascoe will need to face the Thunder without the pair.
It is set to be an intriguing clash, and a win will hand a nice morale boost to either clubs.
Werribee City v Ballarat Red Devils
Both sides won’t remember much of their last meeting in 2011, but this weekend’s clash is shaping up to be season defining for both clubs.
Separated by three points, Ballarat has two games in hand on Werribee, and a win will push the Bees down into the relegation spot. There is no doubting the home side needs to win to arrest an alarming form slump, and should need no motivation to come out flying.
Ballarat won’t be making it easy either, and was sitting pretty at 2-0 up against Pascoe Vale before their clash was abandoned.
Oakleigh Cannons v Bentleigh Greens
Losing to Hume City last week was a huge setback to Oakleigh’s title hopes as it saw South Melbourne roar into a nine-point lead at the top of the ladder.
Goran Zoric scored a brace in the same fixture last season and the Cannons will be hoping he fires again this weekend. Bentleigh is in the midst of a jam-packed fixture list with cup commitments as well as a friendly with Melbourne Victory played in mid-week, while fatigue may become a factor for those who played in that game.
This should be quite an entertaining game of football, with both sides keen to play an attacking brand of football.
Heidelberg United v Hume City
Heidelberg will be disappointed to lose third spot on the ladder having held it since Round 8, and one win in its last five games is far from ideal form heading into this clash.
While it couldn’t find the back of the net against Port Melbourne last week, they still possess one of the most potent attacking duos in the league. Hume City has been climbing their way up the ladder, and the signing of Abel Fesseha from Springvale White Eagles seems to have reinvigorated its attack in recent weeks.
Should he be in form again against Heidelberg, and be complemented well by Victory trialists Christopher Cristaldo and Anthony Proia, this game could end up in another goal fest.
Click here for a full preview of all the weekend’s matches plus a list of the NPL 1 Round 17 fixtures.