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Victory draw on thumping for ALW final

The humiliation of 5-1 loss to Melbourne City earlier in the season will drive Melbourne Victory when they take on their cross-town rivals in the A-League Women preliminary final.

Hannah Wilkinson scored all five goals in December’s thumping, which brought Victory squarely down to earth and started City’s run to a second-placed finish.

“We look back on that and when we see highlights of the game, it still hurts me as a coach, still hurts the players,” coach Jeff Hopkins said.

“So in terms of bit of redemption, definitely.

“But also, it most probably taught us a lesson back then, that we needed to learn that we might not have put right maybe as quickly and as well as we did if we weren’t thumped in that game.

“So we can say thanks to City in some ways for being so clinical on that day.

“We’re now much more effective dealing with direct play and balls over the top, which really hurt us that day, and setting ourselves up against a different shape.

“It still hurts for sure. Just listening to the players this week, there is an element of we’ve got to put the record straight coming up to this weekend.”

Victory beat Adelaide United in last week’s elimination final to tee up a derby clash with City, who let a 2-0 lead slip in a 4-2 extra-time loss to Sydney FC.

City will be without defender Tyla-Jay Vlajnic and goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri at AAMI Park on Sunday, after they were both sent off against the Sky Blues.

Coach Rado Vidosic confirmed Chelsea Blissett and custodian Sally James would start.

“We go left-footer for left-footer, glove for glove,” he said.

“We won’t try to do any experiments. It’s a very important game.

“We’ve been working a long time on our structure, we’ve been working a long time on our principles.

“We haven’t got time to change anything and the last time we played against Melbourne Victory it was quite successful.”

Victory face their own selection dilemma with Kyra Cooney-Cross returning from suspension.

“She’s a match winner. So I don’t think there’s any surprises that she will come back in,” Hopkins said.

“It’s just where she comes in and what spot she can be most effective on the day.”

The game will also mark City stalwart, five-time ALW championship winner and New Zealand international, Rebekah Stott’s 100th ALW game.

Stott, who previously played for Brisbane and the Victory, returned from Hodgkin’s lymphoma earlier this season.

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