All five of Melbourne Victory’s off-season signings are likely to play a role for Kevin Muscat’s men in their round one A-League match with Western Sydney.
Melbourne Victory boss Kevin Muscat could unleash all five of his off-season signings against Western Sydney Wanderers on Friday night.
Matthieu Delpierre, Carl Valeri, Daniel Georgievski and new marquee forward Besart Berisha are all certainties to start, with Fahid Ben Khalfallah also in contention for an attacking berth.
The changes are a stark reminder, if one was needed, that this is Muscat’s club now.
The foundation Victory captain begins his first full season in charge as coach, needing to break a long-running hoodoo to take three points.
Victory haven’t claimed an opening round success since their triumphant 2006-07 season, with the manager looking firmly to his new recruits to break the seven-year drought.
Berisha and Delpierre are considered rock-solid choices for the first XI, with Valeri’s selection an obvious choice in the absence of skipper Mark Milligan on international duty.
Muscat said Georgievski will play on Friday as two other full-backs, Dylan Murnane and Scott Galloway, are with the Young Socceroos.
While normally a vast change to a side would be a disruptive influence, Muscat says early signings and an off-season including the FFA Cup has helped bond the side already.
Berisha, the biggest of those names, was signed back in January before winning a title with Brisbane in his last match.
He was followed by towering French centre-back Delpierre and Valeri early in the off-season.
In the sunshine that accompanies the beginning of an A-League season, Muscat was beaming with positivity ahead of the match.
“To get all the cliches out of the way, we’re as prepared as we could be and we’re as fit as we can ever be,” he said, smiling.
“We’ve used every opportunity to prepare and prepare well for tomorrow night.”
His chipper outlook though couldn’t hide his annoyance with the league’s kick-off clashing with a Socceroos fixture.
“It is frustrating but the reality is I’d rather put energy into the players that can affect the result tomorrow night,” he said.
The Wanderers are also affected, with Nikolai Topor-Stanley away.
Tomi Juric (groin) and Matthew Spiranovic (ankle) are also injured for the clash.
The Wanderers poise a formidable threat for Victory, particularly off the back of their Asian Champions League final qualification, but it’s one Muscat is familiar with.
“It’s one thing analysing an opposition and figuring out how they play and I don’t think that’s too difficult to be honest with the Wanderers,” he said.
“But it’s certainly another thing executing the solutions.”
An aggressive pressing approach was given as one response to the Wanderers’ plan – which with Berisha at the top of the Victory formation will start from attack.
Berisha has spoken of his love for his new club and city and Muscat happily returned the favour after seven pre-season goals.
“He’s a good person, he’s a good man that cares deeply about his team-mates and he’s an infectious character,” he said.
“He’s a winner, he wants to win in everything he plays.”