Melbourne Victory will take on the Central Coast Mariners on Saturday night at AAMI Park. The Victory defeated Central Coast in the FFA cup final just two weeks ago, were in top form, and were sitting comfortably in the top 4.
Especially with them winning the FFA Cup, many thought this would be a big confidence booster and they would be even more of a force to reckon with. Instead, it has been the complete opposite extreme. Since winning the FFA cup, stunningly, the Victory have gone on to lose three consecutive matches, to teams placed considerably lower than them.
First a surprising 1-0 loss to Wellington Phoenix on the 9th of February. Then an even more surprising 2-1 defeat to Newcastle at home last Saturday night, a red card that changed the complexity of the game. Finally, a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the lowly Western Sydney Wanderers, a game where the Victory showed very little promise or effort.
There are multiple questions about the Victory that need answering.
What has happened since they won the FFA cup?
Before they won the FFA cup, they were sitting well inside the top 6, looking like they will be an unlikely competitor for the title this year. Now they’ve lost three consecutive games, very unexpectedly, a complete drop off in form.
What do these three losses mean?
There is no doubt that after these three losses, it has brought the Victory back down to earth. They are showing nowhere near the form they were prior to winning the FFA cup, they are now only sitting in the top 6 on goal difference.
How do these three losses affect the team psychologically?
It was fair to say that with such a promising start to the season after coming last in 2021, the Victory hopes of returning to not only the finals, but maybe being a contender for the championship this year were high. After three appalling performances, has it been a massive wake up call for Melbourne Victory perhaps, as maybe they were getting carried away? Has it dragged them down to earth maybe? Will it affect their form for the rest of the season if they cannot rebound from these defeats?
These are all things that Popovich needs to work out quickly, as there is no doubt that the Victory should be in a much better position than what they are after this slump. Yes we understand that it is his first year at the club, but all three of these losses were without doubt games Victory were expected to win.
Losing is not a habit you want to be in, from the way Victory built up their squad, they want to develop winning habits. There was a lot more promise for this side at the start of the year prior to the FFA cup triumph then what appears to be now. Therefore, this rematch of the final against Central Coast on Saturday night must be seen as a “must win” for Popoviches men. There is no doubt the pressure is heating up on Popovich. Maybe he needs to look at bringing in some changes to the squad, look at some underperforming players, give some players who started on the bench some start time, maybe even change up the goalkeeper and give Matt Acton a try in the starting line up.
They certainly need more impact from players like Nick D’Agostino, Marco Rojas, Robbie Cruise. One thing is for certain, the alarm bells are ringing, and the Victory simply must get a winning result on Saturday night. They are facing a side that are well below them, with Central Coast sitting in 10th with only three wins so far and the Victory cannot afford to blow this opportunity at home in front of their own fans. If they don’t rectify this form soon, it could be very costly for them. As at prior to winning the FFA Cup, it looked like a rejuvenated, brand new Victory outfit. The side we were used to once upon a time seeing- Competing hard, a force to reckon with, challenging their ambitions to make the playoffs. But as of their three game slump, they almost look like the side of last year, in wooden spoon form.