Tim Cahill is red carded before even being substituted on to the field against Melbourne Victory.
Tim Cahill is red carded before even being substituted on to the field against Melbourne Victory. JOE CASTRO

Injuries, suspensions hit Melbourne City hard

FOOTBALL: Melbourne City has been decimated for its season-defining clash with Brisbane Roar on Saturday night, with six players already suspended for the AAMI Park showdown.

A seventh, goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis, is likely to join them on the ban list, while a repeat calf injury to central defender Michael Jakobsen has also added salt to City's gaping wounds.

Tim Cahill's one-match suspension for his bizarre sending off on Saturday night is all but certain to be ratified by the Match Review Panel on Monday.

While captain Bruno Fornaroli, defender Manny Muscat, midfielders Osama Malik and Luke Brattan and winger Fernando Brandan all picked up their fifth yellow cards of the season against Melbourne Victory at Etihad Stadium, triggering one-match bans.

It sets up an intriguing battle with Brisbane given that the Roar faces an all-or-nothing Asian Champions League qualifier in China against Carlos Tevez's Shanghai Shenhua on Wednesday night.

Brisbane is third on the ladder with 28 points and City is fourth with 26 points, with fifth-placed Perth now only two points further back.

Given the travel and tight turnaround, Roar unsuccessfully attempted to have Saturday's game shifted to another date, but City's sudden player drain now levels the playing field.

City's season is in free fall, having won just two of its 10 games since lifting the FFA Cup in November.

Their 2-1 derby loss to Victory was a hammer blow given it was leading 1-0 until Victory scored in the 84th and 86th minutes.

The go-ahead goal was particularly controversial and one which also set in motion a chain of events that led to Bouzanis finding himself in hot water and Cahill being shown a red card before he even stepped on to the field.

Bouzanis is every chance to cop a lengthy ban for calling Besart Berisha a "f***ing gypsy" while the referees were conferring about whether to allow the goal to stand.

As Muscat turned the ball in to his own net Berisha was in the vicinity in an offside position. But Berisha was adjudged by referee Chris Beath to have not been interfering with play.

When the goal was confirmed City's bench blew up at the match officials, with Cahill - who was preparing to come on as a substitute - then given his marching orders.

The referee's report listed his offence as an "R6" - use of offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures - which carries an automatic one-match ban.

Jakobsen, 31, was substituted at half-time.

He has injured the same left calf that kept him out for three matches in December-January.