Kevin Muscat talks tough ahead of derby
It is perhaps predictable that a coach would talk down a rival team ahead of a much-awaited derby. And more so, when the coach is bullish Kevin Muscat.
Melbourne Victory’s clash with Melbourne City at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday night will mark the first time Melbourne Heart-cum-City will play the derby in their new guise, a factor Muscat suggested put City under pressure.
“What I do know is that it’s the first derby where there is some expectation on them … this is their first derby or first season where they’re going to have to live with some expectation,” he said on Friday. “We’ve had to live with expectation for 10 years.”
When challenged on this point, given Melbourne Heart’s comparable history playing derbys, Muscat hinted his opponent’s recent rebranding could serve as a weakness on the field.
“No disrespect intended, but so much has changed from there, so it’s like a fresh start, if you like,” he said.
And then he backpedalled: “It’s all irrelevant anyway. It’s a game of football. The relevance for our fans to win this game is huge and we’re fully aware of that.”
Muscat indicated Scott Galloway would replace Jason Geria, who hurt his ankle in the 1-1 draw against Adelaide United last week.
And Muscat is confident a higher-quality ground surface at Etihad will serve his side well.
“I dare say it will be a lot easier to play on this surface than it was last week,” he said.
“Our mantra won’t change. We’ll get them nice and early. Put them under enormous pressure. They’ll feel the pressure from the kick-off. And when we get the ball back … we’ll want to cause problems and want to get on the attack.”
The Victory coach’s selling of his own side is not mere lip service.
His team has not benefited from the open purse of Manchester City – perks including precious recruit, Spanish World Cup winner David Villa.
Yet Victory is ahead of its rival, boasting a 4-1 win over Western Sydney Wanderers FC, while City is resting on two draws – both scored by Villa, who will leave the club after round four.
The Victory’s chairman Anthony Di Pietro announced a club record membership total of 22,611, exceeding the previous mark of 22,600, on Friday.
And above all the tough talking and touting, Muscat had one clear directive for the swelling fan base: “I want to see those seats full.”