Saturday, 7 July 2007 7:16 PM
By Michael Tsoukalis
Sunday’s encounter between South Melbourne and the Essendon Royals looms as a six pointer for both sides.
Essendon hasn’t managed a win in 5 matches whilst South’s past two games, which have yielded defeat, have been characterized by poor performances.
South continues to struggle defensively with the losses of Steven O’Dor and Dino Djulbic to the A-League, having failed to be convincingly covered.
To further deepen South’s defensive troubles, defensive colossus Arthur Tsonis tore his meniscus last week against Richmond and is expected to miss at least four weeks.
Coach John Anastasiadis will now have to seriously consider drafting the experienced Tansel Baser into a central defensive role with South down to the inexperienced Frank Drakopoulos as their last recognized centre-back.
Leading scorer Ricky Diaco and Brazilian maestro Fernando Moraes are a chance to return from niggling injuries which have hampered the duo throughout the season.
With both players missing a full game last week after nursing injuries against Heidelberg, not having two of the most dangerous attacking players in the competition has seen South uncharacteristically not score for the past two matches.
Five weeks ago Essendon were the surprise packet of the competition, sitting in the top half of the top six and looking a good chance for finals football. Fast forward five weeks and the Royals are a loss away from being dragged into a relegation dog-fight.
Conversely, South needs a win to regain their top-six status with the most concerning aspect of the past two weeks being the team’s inability to find their usual fluent and assertive game. Instead, the players have seem somewhat lost and lacking in motivation, something which must be corrected as soon as possible if the Champions are serious of defending their crown.
Essendon’s squad is comprised of many serviceable Premier League players such as ex-South Melbourne defender Con Anthopoulos who is consistently solid in defence. Attacking midfielder Frankie Lagana has been the inspiration for the Royals this season with his seven goals from midfield seeing the ex-Empoli player lead the Essendon goal-scoring charts.
Furthermore, Michael Catalano has also had a superb season from a goal-scoring perspective, adding 6 goals, with South having to be mindful of his goal-getting ability.