Kevin Muscat will have a settled team at his disposal for tomorrow night’s Christmas Derby, with his squad preparing for a bumper fixture period.
“[We’ll have] the same squad as last week,” Muscat said just over 24-hours out from Melbourne Victory’s second clash with City for the season.
“Obviously Nick Ansell came into the squad last week, so he’s had another week of training.
“Kenny Athiu has trained for coming up to two weeks, so he’ll be in the mix again, so we have a couple of bodies back that we can choose from based on last week’s squad.”
Spanish midfielder Raul Baena will miss at least another week with a hamstring complaint, whilst German centre-back Georg Niedermeier’s rolled ankle will see him sidelined.
“Raul and Georg are working away but this week is too soon for them. We’ll take our time [with their recoveries].”
A bit has changed since the side’s last locked horns in Round 1 and Muscat knows the result of the first Melbourne Derby of the season means little in determining the fate of the second.
“[That] performance was good, but there’s been so much for both teams that’s happened since then.
“It’s such a long time ago now it’s irrelevant speaking about it.
“We’d rather focus on the job at hand tomorrow night than look backwards… It’s our attitude and preparation to put on a performance that can help us.
No stranger to the atmosphere and emotion of a derby from his days as a player and now coach, Muscat hopes his players embrace the special nature of contests like Saturday.
“Usually in these games, what we’ve seen and what history tells us is the intensity lifts. There’ll be a wonderful atmosphere and we look forward to that.
“There’s many forms of emotion, I probably testify that you need some sort of emotion in you to be able to cope with everything that goes on.
“Then you focus and channel all your emotion in the right way so you’re in control and can stay in control.”
As for the emotion of it all, the Melbourne Victory boss can’t wait for game day and the roar that meets that first whistle.
“This time of year throughout my whole career has been about football: playing football and being involved in football games, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“These games here at AAMI when the stands are full [have] an unbelievable atmosphere and we enjoy playing in those surroundings.
“There’s no doubt there’ll be many of our fans here and we look forward to seeing them tomorrow night.”