Melbourne Victory will be out for redemption following a narrow grand final loss in a penalty shootout last season. The Victory will be hurting especially bad after seeing long-time rivals Sydney FC do the double last season.

If it wasn’t for Sydney FC’s remarkable season the Victory would’ve been right in the frame to finish in top spot on the ladder. Expectations will be high for the powerhouse Victory heading into the new campaign, with last season a good stepping stone as they look to bring in more silverware.

Last season:
A-League: 2nd
Finals: Runners-up
FFA Cup: Semi-finals

They’ll win the league because…
Their attack is one of the finest in the league with plenty of big-name experience up front. Last season they were equal third with Melbourne City for goals scored, largely due to the Victory sticking with proven performers. Besart Berisha and the returning Kosta Barbarouses will complement each other with strength and pace respectively, while James Troisi is equally as good a scoring threat from his roaming attacking midfield position which will allow him to employ his shooting ability.

They’ll be cellar dwellers because…
They are competing in the AFC Champions League, which has affected A-League teams in the past. Last season Adelaide United, Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar took part in the competition and only the Roar made the A-League finals out of the three.

There is also the challenge of how the Victory go about replacing another centre-half. Can Rhys Williams fill the void? They have released Alan Baró who ended up being surplus to requirements, but was a solid contributor and now finds himself captain of the Central Coast Mariners. Baró joins the Mariners after just one season at the Victory and might have a point to prove. Despite being relatively small for a centre-back he will offer the Mariners tough and aggressive tackling and could help their leaky defence immensely.

Talk around the watercooler… Look smart in front of your colleagues with this valuable piece of information.
Will the Melbourne City supporters hold a grudge towards James Troisi after re-signing with Victory, amid controversial circumstances? If the Melbourne derby didn’t have enough spice in it then Troisi certainly tried his best to increase the heat in the contest. Expect another cracking derby encounter when the two sides meet in Round 2.

The offseason brought…
Stability in the middle of the park. The return of Mark Milligan is a big coup after a two-year stint for UAE club Baniyas SC. The Australian international can be relied upon to protect the back four in the defensive midfield spot. They also recruited Argentine Matías Sánchez to add an extra dimension and depth to central midfield. He has spent his career mostly in the Argentinian top flight playing for teams such as Unión de Santa Fe, Arsenal de Sarandí and Racing Club.

Key player…
Besart Berisha – Arguably the best striker to grace the A-League after a record-breaking 2016/17 campaign, becoming the league’s all-time leading goal scorer as well as extending that impressive feat as the first person to reach 100 goals in the competition’s history. His passion for the game never goes unnoticed and it’s that desire that will help propel Victory towards the finals.

One to watch…
Leroy George – The Dutch winger joins the Victory with experience in the top flight of the Netherlands and the Turkish second division. He’s also notched up appearances in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League to go with caps for the Netherlands U20 and U21 teams. His impressive CV means he has the capability to thrive in a new environment, especially with the task of replacing the departing Marco Rojas. It will be a tough ask, but the Victory loyal will hope the 30-year-old George can bring similar characteristics of Rojas’ game to support their main man Berisha.

Full squad list…
1. Matt ACTON (GK), 2. Jason GERIA, 4. Rhys WILLIAMS, 5. Mark MILLIGAN, 6. Leigh BROXHAM, 7. Leroy GEORGE, 8. Besart BERISHA, 9. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10. James TROISI, 11. Mitch AUSTIN, 14. Thomas DENG, 15. Matías SÁNCHEZ, 17. James DONACHIE, 18. Josh HOPE, 19. Pierce WARING, 20. Lawrence THOMAS (GK), 21. Carl VALERI (C), 22. Stefan NIGRO, 23. Jai INGHAM, 31. Christian THEOHAROUS, 32. Cameron MCGLIP

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Liam Watson is currently completing Media and Communications at La Trobe University with a keen interest in sport, plus all the banter that goes with it.