Friday, 28 June 2013 9:00 AM
By John Kyrou
South Melbourne FC hosts Port Melbourne Sharks on Sunday afternoon at Lakeside Stadium in a match that the home side must win in order to keep up with the top three.
Following the thoroughly disappointing 3-0 loss to Northcote City last Sunday, South announced the departures of Luke Byles (captain), Tom Matthews (one of three vice captains), Rhodri Payne, Joe Keenan and Sebastian Mattei during the week ahead of the mid-season transfer window. Fellow vice captains Dimi Tsiaras and Fernando De Moraes will be required to step up and lead the side following the departures of Byles and Matthews. Tsiaras is expected to replace Byles by joining Shaun Kelly at centre-back this weekend whilst it is likely that Dimi Hatzimouratis will return to right-back – where he did an excellent job at the start of the season – following Matthews’ departure. There is also the possibility that youngster Matko Budimir may be given a chance in defence following his good performance against Northcote City in the Cup game on 10 June. Exciting Dutchman Nick Soolsma has been signed by the Club and will be in contention for a place in the starting eleven.
South currently sits in fourth place on the Victorian Premier League ladder with 17 points. Northcote are 11 points ahead of South (28 points), Hume City is four points ahead (21) and Bentleigh Greens are two points ahead (19). What is also a cause for concern is the fact that fifth-placed Melbourne Knights and sixth-placed Port Melbourne are both only two points behind South on 15 points each. South could end the weekend in outright third place or could drop out of the top five altogether. With a run of five straight League matches at Lakeside Stadium, it is a crucial part of the year that will really define South’s season. A tally of 10-12 points out of the next available 15 points at home would set South up nicely for a finals appearance, whilst 15 out of 15 would go a long way to securing a top three finish.
Port Melbourne will be looking to take advantage of South’s shot confidence on Sunday afternoon. Whilst Eric Vassiliadis’ side has never played South in the Victorian Premier League, they have played – and twice defeated – South in the State Knockout Cup in the last two years. On both occasions Port was a State League One side that was trailing 1-0 before winning both matches 2-1 and knocking an embarrassed South out of the competition. Having been promoted at the end of 2012 and sitting comfortably mid-table in 2013 as the season approaches the halfway mark, Port Melbourne will be a difficult opponent to overcome on Sunday.
Sunday’s match kicks off at 3pm at Lakeside Stadium.