NPL Preview: Youth Melbourne Derby

Melbourne City’s NPL side will be looking to jumpstart their 2019 NPL Victoria season in one of the best possible ways on Sunday as they face rivals Melbourne Victory in the Youth Melbourne Derby at Epping Stadium.

Winless since mid-April, City fought doggedly but were nonetheless unable to record a vital point last week; visiting Geelong SC using a 41st minute headed goal from defender Matt Townley to steal a win on a wet and wild Sunday afternoon at La Trobe University.

With an average age of just 16.9 years, it was the youngest side ever run out by City in a senior match and will likely be even younger on Sunday, with goalkeeper Ahmad Taleb expected to enter the line-up to replace the departed Majak Mawith, who signed with Port Melbourne.

City will likely be boosted, though, by a return to the starting lineup by Moudi Najjar, who came on as a second-half substitute last week and showed good energy.

The result against Geelong SC means that City has now sunk to ninth place on the NPL2 Eastern Conference table heading into round 16, just a point clear of bottom-placed Springvale White Eagles, who will host Geelong SC at the Serbian Sports Centre on Saturday.

A win against Victory, however, could see City climb as high as seventh should Box Hill fail Whittlesea Ranges and Murray United fail to dispatch North Geelong Warriors. That hypothetical win would also potentially leave City just a point adrift of sixth position and the resulting spot in the second tier of football following reforms to NPL Victoria next season.

Opponents Melbourne Victory come into the game suffering under their own form slump, not having tasted triumph since a 1-0 win over North Geelong Warriors back on the sixth of April. Since that time, the youth squad of Gareth Naven has lost five out of seven fixtures - albeit with their two draws coming in the previous two weeks in a 2-2 draw with Box Hill United and a 0-0 draw with Springvale.

Unable to move above their eighth place on the NPL2 Western Conference with a win thanks to a four-point buffer retained by seventh-placed Brunswick City, Victory could slip to ninth in the conference with a loss and a win by Whittlesea against Box Hill.

The youth sides of City and Victory have met three times in the past twelve months, with City winning the last two meetings after Victory claimed bragging rights in the 2018 NPL Victoria season.

A 4-1 victory of Victory in round four of the Y-League season – in which Najjar and Connor Metcalfe both netted braces – was followed in round eight with a come-from-behind 3-2 win by City – Stefan Colakovski, a Luke Goulding own goal and Gianluca Iannucci strike enough to erase early goals from Jack Palazzolo and Elvis Kamsoba.

In the 2018 NPL season, an early strike from Marko Delic had City ahead after 12 minutes only for Victory to respond with goals to Birkan Kirdar, Brandon Lauton (x2) and Palazzolo (x2) to run out 5-1 victors in a contest City ended with nine men after two red cards.

Prior to the 3 pm kickoff of the two senior groups, the U20s of Victory and City will also meet in the day's curtain-raiser in a battle of first in the U20 NPL2 Eastern Conference vs first in the U20 NPL2 Western Conference. Kickoff in that contest is set for 12:30.

Match Details:

NPL Victoria - NPL2 Round Sixteen
Sunday, 09 June 2019
Melbourne City FC v Melbourne Victory
Venue: Epping Stadium, Epping, Melbourne 
Kick-off: U20s – 12:30pm | Seniors 3:00pm