Durakovic: Stars need protection

On the eve of the new season, Melbourne Victory coach Mehmet Durakovic has urged the Hyundai A-League's referees to protect the competition's marquee players such as his own Harry Kewell and Sydney FC's Brett Emerton.

On the eve of the new season, Melbourne Victory coach Mehmet Durakovic has urged the Hyundai A-League's referees to protect the competition's marquee players such as his own Harry Kewell and Sydney FC's Brett Emerton.

Former Leeds and Liverpool star Kewell and Emerton, who's returned home after a decade campaigning in Holland and the EPL, will face off in Saturday's opening-round fixture at Etihad Stadium, and Durakovic is keen to ensure that everything's kept fair and above board.

"These guys are superstars and they really need to be protected," said Durakovic after the Victory's training session at Gosch's Paddock on Thursday morning.

"Hopefully we won't get bad tackles."

"We're all about playing football."

Durakovic said Kewell would start on Saturday but, being short of match fitness, he's no certainty to last the full 90 minutes.

The 33-year-old, the coach said, had set the standard for his new teammates in the couple of weeks he's been in camp.

"Just his professionalism," said Durakovic.

"He hasn't played for a while, but you can tell after two or three training sessions, he's an absolutely fantastic footballer."

"He's showing the youngsters what to do, how to run, where to run, how to play the ball."

"It's been magnificent for all the youngsters to see."

Durakovic said exciting former Wellington Phoenix midfielder Marco Rojas has fully recovered from a hamstring strain and would be in the mix to play his first game for the Victory on Saturday.

Confirmed to debut is Ante Covic, a last-minute replacement in goal for Tando Velaphi who's set to miss up to 10 weeks because of stress fractures in a tibia.

Durakovic said the club was able to pull some strings to sign Covic, who's a client of Kewell's manager Bernie Mandic, from Swedish outfit Elfsborg at short notice.

"We knew that Ante was available and, with the right connections, we got him over the line," Durakovic said.