South Melbourne FC

The Blue and White Forever

Match Preview: Preston Lions v SMFC

Match Preview: Preston Lions v SMFC

Thursday, 27 March 2008 6:41 PM

By John Kyrou & George Kouroumalis

After a disastrous start to season 2008, South Melbourne must wipe everything aside as it prepares to take on old rivals and reigning Foxtel Cup champions Preston in a must-win derby match on Sunday at Connor Reserve.

After a very disappointing opening five rounds in which South has only won once, the team will be striving to return to winning ways with a positive result over the Lions, which will hopefully once more kick-start the 2008 campaign.

Going into the game, South is expected to make changes to the line-up that were comprehensively beaten 0-2 at home against the AIS on Monday.

Steven O’Dor will be a welcome return to the back four, serving his one game suspension during the AIS match. It is expected that he will partner Shane Nunes in the centre of defence, with veterans Sam Poutakidis and Ramazan Tavsancioglu both expected to patrol the right and left hand sides respectively. Both ‘Rama’ and Poutakidis have had reasonable seasons to date, with the latter impressing his new team-mates and fans with his dedication to the blue and white cause both on and off the park.

The position in the middle of the park is still presenting a grey area for coach John Anastasiadis, but it is expected that he will once again place his faith in youngster Antonio La Verde in central midfield. La Verde has been impressive in his opening three games for his new club and his performances have proven that he is a capable and hard working player with a lot of potential.

The other midfield positions will most likely be awarded to Fernando and Goran Zoric, with doubts raised on the fitness of Bill Natsioulas, who limped off on Monday with what appeared to be a minor strain to his leg. If selected, all three will need to have big games if South is to gain all three points at Connor Reserve.

In the attacking third, Ricky Diaco and Nathan Caldwell will be staking a claim to start the game, following an injury to Gianni De Nittis. A starter in the last three matches, De Nittis received a knock on his knee against the AIS and will require a fortnight on the sidelines to recover. The other striker vying to keep his spot in the team is Hamlet Armenian, who will no doubt want to keep his spot in order to experience his first derby game against the Lions. Armenian will also be keen to put aside his poor performance on Monday and capture his form of 2007, where he was one of the most exciting players in the Foxtel Cup.

South will also have to account for a very disciplined and well-drilled Preston side, with the Goran Lozanovski lead side firmly intent on winning all three points in front of their home crowd. The star of the Lions is undoubtedly goalkeeper Lupce Acevski, who returned to Preston after leaving his Czech Republic club. Acevski is a superb keeper at VPL level and will be the equivalent of a wall in goals, with the former NSL custodian having excellent reflexes and the ability to save anything that comes his way. Against South in 2007 he was the difference between the clubs, making a series of superb saves to deny South winning a game that ended 3-3.

Helping Acevski in the defensive area will be a committed defensive unit lead by the experienced Les Anastasiou. The big central defender always lifts a level when the big games arise and he will be giving his all to get in the way of any South foray forward on Sunday.

In the middle of the park, Preston will be reliant on the services of captain Tony Sterjovski and Marinos Gasparis, both of whom are well known for their work ethic and abilities to score from long range. Gasparis will be remembered by South supporters for his Man of the Match display at Bob Jane Stadium last season, where he ripped apart the South midfield and defence alike to score a double and cause mass panic every time he gained possession of the ball.

Up front, Preston will go with long-time servant Johnny Sapazovski, a player that on his day can cause problems with his deadly finishing and ability to find the ball in the right areas on most occasions. He will be supported by Ricky Chillico, yet another player who will be desperate to play his first derby match after crossing over to Preston from Fawkner in the summer.

To add a bit more spice to the derby, big South goalkeeper and captain Dean Anastasiadis will make his 150th league appearance for the club against the Lions. Anastasiadis began his career in the 1992/93 NSL season and left after the 1995/96 season but returned again at the beginning of the 2002/03 season. He is in his tenth season at the club, having played 84 games for South in the NSL and a further 65 games for the club since it joined the VPL in 2005. Undoubtedly one of the highlights of the 37 year old’s previous 149 South games would have been captaining the 2006 championship team and lifting the VPL trophy together with his brother and coach John Anastasiadis. ‘Deano’ has played against the Lions many times in the past and his experience and leadership skills will be crucial and much needed, in order for him to guide his young side through the cauldron that will be the Connor Reserve on Sunday.

With a large derby crowd expected and both teams needing three points to consolidate their seasons, the game promises to be an enthralling contest and one which South simply needs to win in order to get itself back on track for season 2008.

Preston Lions vs South Melbourne FC

When: Sunday, March 30th
Where: BT Connor Reserve
Kick-off: 3pm (Under 21s at 1pm)

Projected Starting line-ups

Preston Lions
Lupce Acevski (GK), Victor Pititto, Les Anastasiou, Marinos Gasparis, Tony Sterjovski, Ricky Chillico, Johnny Sapazovski, Igorce Kolevski, Stephen Masalkovski, Francesco Catalano, Blaze Georgioski

South Melbourne
Dean Anastasiadis (GK), Sam Poutakidis, Rama Tavsancioglou, Steven O’Dor, Shane Nunes, Tony La Verde, Bill Natsioulas, Goran Zoric, Fernando De Moraes, Hamlet Armenian, Ricky Diaco

Head to head (Games since 2005)

Played : 5
Preston Lions : 1
South Melbourne : 2
Draw : 2

Last Meeting

When: Sunday, 27 May 2007
Where: Bob Jane Stadium
Score: South Melbourne 3 drew with Preston 3

Form in 2008 (last 3 games)

South: Win, Loss, Loss
Preston Lions: Win, Draw, Win

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