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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 23 July 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 23 JULY 2016 27 SPORT European giants take over the G this week for ICC series Melbourne Victory to take on European clubs in first pre-season matches Melbourne this week plays host to three big European football clubs when the International Champions Cup series returns after a successful tour last season. Italian champion Juventus has already touched town, having arrived last Monday, and will kick off the three-match series tonight with a match at the MCG against our very own Melbourne Victory. The squad had its first training session at Lakeside Stadium on Tuesday. Atletico Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur, runners up in their respective leagues last season, are due in town for the other two matches of the series this week. The Juventus squad is missing several key players, who have been exempted from the pre-season tour to Australia to allow them time to recover from a hectic schedule. Thirteen of Juventus' squad were in action with various countries at the recent Euro 2016 Championship. Notable absences from the squad which arrived in Melbourne are, Paul Pogba, Patrice Evra (France), keeper and captain Gianluigi Buffon, Georgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Simone Zazo, Andrea Barzagli, Stefano Sturaro (Italy), Sammy Khedira (Germany), Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) and Stephan Lichtsteiner (Switzerland). of the younger players game time is on the cards to get his squad through these competitive games unscathed. L-R: Juventus’ Neto, Kwadwo Asamoah, coach Massimiliano Allegri, Paulo Dybala, Miralem Pjanic and former Juventus star David Trezeguet, cruising the Yarra. Despite the absence of many bigname Juventus stars, Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat believes fans can still expect to see a top quality Juventus team when it takes on Victory tonight. "Regardless of who comes out it will be a formidable opponent. Some very good players. It's a little bit challenging for us. But it’s something we've had to plan for throughout the off-season, in terms of making sure we get the players in a safe condition, to be able to compete in the game on Saturday, but at the same time making sure we focus on October in our first game in the A-League season," Muscat said, speaking on SEN radio earlier this week. Although having just commenced the pre-season training, Victory already faces a congested schedule over the next two weeks, with a tour match to follow next Sunday against visiting Atletico Madrid in Geelong, followed midweek by an FFA Cup fixture against the Newcastle Jets. Muscat hinted that rotating his squad and giving some Muscat commented on the early fixture congestion saying: "Can you believe it? Well, considering the fixture headaches we had last season, I'm not surprised. And that's disappointing when I say I'm not surprised because these games against Juventus and Atletico are FFA sanctioned games, so they're well aware of them. And to tell us to play immediately after that on the Wednesday night, something's got to give. There are a lot of young players in our team in our youth team, who are very excited because it looks like they'll be getting a run in one competition or another. But it's exciting. We look forward to it. If previous games against these big European clubs are anything to go by, it'll be an exceptional night." The other two ICC matches scheduled for this coming week in Melbourne are: Match 2: Juventus v Tottenham Hotspur (26 July, MCG) Match 3: Tottenham Hotspur v Atletico Madrid (29 July MCG) On Sunday 31 July, Melbourne Victory take on Atletico Madrid at Simmonds Stadium in Geelong in a tour match. Bentleigh opens up lead in race for Premier’s Plate South and Victory to play today behind closed doors With just five rounds of the season remaining, reigning NPL champion Bentleigh Greens has emerged as a clear favourite to take the Premier's Plate from South Melbourne after stretching its lead at the top to five points over second-placed Lakesiders. As well as the Premier’s Plate, Bentleigh has the chance to add the Dockerty Cup when it contests the final next Saturday at ABD stadium Broadmeadows against Green Gully. Last week in the league, Bentleigh struck four unanswered goals past Melbourne Knights, while South Melbourne conceded four goals in a 4-3 loss away to Oakleigh Cannons. South lost a defender to a red card for the second week in a row, forcing coach Chris Taylor to deploy midfielder Iqi Jawadi in a full back position. In Rd 22 action this weekend, Bentleigh Greens hosted an improving Pascoe Vale last night, with the results unavailable at time of printing. Today, South Melbourne will have as good a chance as any to get back on the winning track when it visits bottom-placed Melbourne Victory's NPL side. However, South fans will have to rely on social media to receive progress scores from the match, after the FFV announced earlier in the week the match will be closed to the public, following security concerns arising from incidents between the two sets of supporters at Lakeside the last time these two teams met. The FFV released a statement outlining its decision. "The match has been assessed by Football Federation Victoria under its match security guidelines protocol. Both Melbourne Victory and South Melbourne have been involved in the decision making process and understand and accept FFV's decision to play the match behind closed doors. Only players, officials, family members and accredited media will be allowed en- try. FFV appreciates that some fans will be disappointed with this decision. The decision to play the match behind closed doors was not taken lightly. FFV, Football Federation Australia and all clubs will continue to work towards providing the best possible match day experience for all fans and supporters." While Souths must now battle to hold on to second place, fourth-placed Oakleigh Cannons has exceeded its own expectations this season and looks almost certain to play finals football. The Cannons can make finals a certainty by picking up at least four points in its next two matches, against the only two sides outside the top six which have an outside chance of replacing it, Melbourne Knights, which it hosts this Sunday, followed by Pascoe Vale, the following Friday away from home. The Cannons’ success this season owes much to the goal-scoring talents of Dusan Bosnjak and Dimi Hatzimouratis, who between them have scored 30 goals in the league this season. Bosnjak has scored 17 goals and is joint leader with Milos Lujic for the Golden Boot. Meanwhile, in the bottom half of the competition, Northcote City has managed to crawl out of the bottom two automatic relegation places for the first time this season since coach Goran Lozanovski took over. Following a 3-1 home win last Saturday over Port Melbourne Sharks, a midweek scoreless draw away to Avondale FC in a catch-up game lifted Northcote City a point above Richmond SC. City now has a lifeline and can even try to avoid the play-off if it can overtake 11th-placed Bulleen Lions. The two teams meet in a crucial match this Monday night at David Barro stadium in Bulleen, followed by another crucial relegation battle the following Saturday when Northcote hosts Richmond. In another battle for survival, 10th-placed Port Melbourne Sharks will be fight- ing for precious points when it travels to Knights stadium today to take on Avondale this afternoon at 2.30 pm. In Rd 22 NPL 2E, secondplaced Kingston City has the chance to knock third-placed Dandenong City out of the promotion race when the two clash this afternoon at Frank Holohan Reserve in Endeavour Hills. A win to Kingston will also keep the pressure on league leader Dandenong Thunder, which slipped up in its first loss of the season last week, to visiting Box Hill United, allowing Kingston to close the gap to three points. Today Box Hill hosts Springvale White Eagles. On Saturday, fifth-placed Brunswick City travels to Albury to take on Murray United, where it hopes to make it four wins in a row and nine games without defeat. City has lost just five games this season, and coach George Karkaletsis believes the team, which had a 70 per cent turnover in playing personnel compared to last season, has achieved the consistency the club was aiming for, particularly over the last couple of months. "We want to finish the season on a strong note, but also look at giving some young players an opportunity. We want to combine the two. We also get three players back from overseas. They'll further strengthen the squad. We'll get them back to finish off the last month and a half of the season," Karkaletsis said. Meanwhile, in the NSW NPL, Sydney Olympic has climbed into the top five for the first time this season with four rounds remaining, after a 2-nil away win at Bonyrigg White Eagles last weekend. Second half goals to Jason Madonis and Harris Gaitatzis secured the crucial win. Olympic now leads the chasing pack by a narrow margin, but with three of its final four games against teams below it on the ladder, it has a good chance of securing a finals spot, which looked a very remote chance a couple of months ago.
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