Friday, 11 April 2008 12:10 AM
By John Kyrou and George Kouroumalis
Photo by Paul Touliatos
After a dismal home performance last weekend, a rejuvenated South Melbourne line-up will take on old NSL rivals Melbourne Knights at Somers Street on Sunday afternoon.
Leading the way for the blues will be Michael Michalakopoulos, who was appointed senior coach earlier in the week following the resignation of John Anastasiadis. Michalakopoulos is an established coach in Victorian football, having achieved impressive results with the Essendon Royals, Bulleen Zebras and most recently playing an instrumental role in the development of the Whittlesea squad that made the VPL Grand Final in 2007. His work with junior footballers, strong work ethic and ability to communicate exceptionally well excites many around the club, as well as the fact that he is yet another ex-South player that has returned to coach the club. Michalakopoulos played with South for three seasons, playing 41 games and scoring 10 goals. He was also part of the famous squad that defeated the Melbourne Knights on penalties in the classic 1990/91 Grand Final.
However the excitement surrounding the appointment of such a well-credentialed coach comes the realisation that if South are to produce a result against a strong Knights side, a massive improvement is needed after the disastrous 0-3 drubbing courtesy of Green Gully at Bob Jane Stadium last week.
In goals, Dean Anastasiadis will once again start for the club, with ‘Deano’ expected to lead on the field and try to assist his younger players through what promises to be a hostile environment at Somers Street. Ahead of him in defence, Michalakopoulos will most likely go with the most solid back four combination possible, with Steven O’Dor and Shane Nunes expected to fill the central defensive positions. Both players had indifferent games against Gully, struggling for the most part against a rampant Gully attacking third. If South are to win, both centre backs will need to step up a gear and make sure they are in the way of everything the Knights forwards throw at them. The right back position will be filled by Sam Poutakidis, a player who has had an exceptional return season to lakeside. At left back, vice captain Rama Tavsancioglu will be keen to get a victory against his former club.
In midfield, Michalakopoulos cannot look past Antonio La Verde in the central midfield position, with the youngster shining since being given the opportunity to play. Fernando de Moraes and Bill Natsioulas will once again be staking their claims to hold down two of the midfield spots, with Gianni De Nittis and Goran Zoric fighting it out to take the other position in the midfield quartet. Up front, Michalakopoulos may be inclined to try two of his former players in Hamlet Armenian and Ricky Diaco, with both players keen to impress their former coach immediately. Trying to push his way into starting contention will be Nathan Caldwell, who will be looking to build on his match-winning goal a fortnight ago against Preston and kick-start his season.
The Melbourne Knights will not be an easy task however and will be a formidable opponent. The Sunshine-based club remains undefeated so far in 2008 and are beginning to establish themselves as one of the teams to beat. One of the key players that South needs to shut down is the influential Anthony Pelikan, who is the danger man in the Knights midfield. Pelikan provides the Knights with a hard-working midfielder and a leader in the centre of the park. His ability to also go forward will need to be nullified in order for South to gain the upper hand.
In the attacking third, the Knights will provide South with many headaches. Leading the charge will be Andrew Barisic, a dangerous striker who will head into the game having scored a double against Coburg last week. Partnering Barisic up front will be Zoran Petrevski, another dangerous player that crossed to the Knights in the summer after a solid 2007 season with Preston. His ability to create chances out of nothing and get himself in dangerous scoring positions allows for the man known as ‘Ziggy’ to zig-zag his way through defences and find the net on regular occasions. Other players to watch will be former NSL stalwarts and former South players Alex Kiratzoglou and Steve Iosifidis, with the latter quite familiar to South fans after playing his part in South’s back-to-back championship teams in the late 1990s.
Overall it promises to be a cracking contest in front of a healthy crowd at Knights Stadium. Both teams have partaken in some thrilling derby matches, particularly through the 1990s period, and have shared a massive and healthy rivalry. Sunday’s match will no doubt be another classic between two of the biggest clubs in Victorian football’s illustrious history.
Melbourne Knights vs South Melbourne FC
When: Sunday, April 13th
Where: Knights Stadium
Kick-off: 3pm (Under 21s at 1pm)
Projected Starting line-ups
Dean Anastasiadis (GK & C), Sam Poutakidis, Rama Tavsancioglu, Steven O’Dor, Shane Nunes, Tony La Verde, Bill Natsioulas, Goran Zoric, Fernando De Moraes, Hamlet Armenian, Ricky Diaco
Savas Ozdemir (GK), Steve Iosifidis, Mathew Grbesa, Craig Elvin, Ivan Franjic, Dario Matkovic, Anthony Pelikan, James Timmons, Alex Kiratzoglou (C), Andrew Barisic, Zoran Petrevski
Head to head (Games since 2005)
Played : 6
South Melbourne : 3
Melbourne Knights : 2
Draw : 1
When: Sunday, 5 August 2007
Where: Knights Stadium
Score: Melbourne Knights 0 def by South Melbourne 2
Form in 2008 (last 3 games)
South Melbourne: Loss, Win, Loss
Melbourne Knights: Win, Draw, Win