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Essendon Royals v South Melbourne FC – Match Preview

Essendon Royals v South Melbourne FC – Match Preview

Wednesday, 8 March 2006 3:35 PM

By Michael Tsoukalis

The Vodafone Cup resumes this Friday night when South Melbourne make the short trek to the Veneto Club to face Luciano Trani’s Essendon Royals.

The Royals find themselves amongst a group of four teams on the edge of the top six and must win against South to sustain pressure on the teams above them or risk falling two games behind.

The Royals have lost key personnel in the off-season with 2005 Vodafone Cup top-scorer Michael Curcija moving to Kingston with his ex-South team-mate Steve Iosifidis also following in his footsteps.

Essendon have had an inconsistent start to the season. A first round 2-3 loss to newly promoted Richmond was followed with a solid 1-1 draw against the rampant Melbourne Knights with a 1-0 win against the Sunshine Georgies in round 3 their first win of the season.

However, just as momentum was building a 3-2 round 4 loss to Altona Magic has left Trani’s men with some ground to make up.

Midfielder Leonardo Catalano is the club’s top-scorer with two goals from the first 4 games and is looking like Essendon’s midfield enforcer.

The Royals have two experienced defenders in Serdar Pir and Nathan Thomas whilst pre-season recruit David Pilic brings NSL experience (Brisbane Strikers) to the Royals’ midfield.

Conversely, after performing a last minute snatch-and-grab against Preston, South Melbourne will be looking towards consolidating a position in the top 6 as well as applying pressure to the top 3 with a win on Friday.

Coach John Anastasiadis will have some interesting selection headaches to overcome after youngsters Gianni De Nittis and Vasilios Natsioulas produced outstanding displays to help South overcome their eternal rivals. De Nittis of course hit a stunning injury time winner from outside the box whilst Natsioulas sparked a lackluster South with his 60th minute introduction providing width, flair and imagination down the right flank.

With Captain Vaughn Coveny agreeing a new one year deal with the Lakeside outfit, it will be interesting to see whether De Nittis can manage to hold onto his starting role.

Furthermore, with Natsioulas impressing greatly against Preston, the ex-Melbourne Knights winger is knocking on the door for first eleven inclusion.

Finally, veteran custodian Dean Anastasiadis is likely to miss after succumbing to an injury that was aggravated against Preston giving a chance to reserve keeper Con Dimitropoulos.

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