Hyundai A-League season preview: Melbourne Victory
After their grand final heartache last May, there’s a burning desire at the Big V to avenge that day. They were so close. Good news? They have the squad to go all the way to the big day in 2017/18.
Victory are an A-League behemoth, winning titles (three Championships so far), pulling huge crowds and playing a brand of football that excites the fans down south.
The challenge is keeping that up till the business end of the season while negotiating Asia in the Champions League.
That said, any team with a Besart Berisha leading the line and coached by the fierce passion of Kevin Muscat will always be in with a sniff - even without the exiting Kiwi Messi.
INS AND OUTS
Ins: Rhys Williams, Kosta Barbarouses, James Troisi, Matias Sanchez, Leroy George.
Outs: Fahid Ben Khalfallah, Daniel Georgievski, Nick Ansell, Alan Baro, Alistair Bray, George Howard, Lucas Spinella, Marco Rojas.
THE BURNING QUESTIONS
What impact will Rhys Williams have in helping stiffen the Big V backline?
Can Victory negotiate the ACL and A-League when it matters most? A question all Aussie ACL clubs face. We’re getting better at this dual challenge but it isn’t easy to play in Asia midweek then fly back to any part of Australia for a game a few days later.
Can the great Berisha keep up his extraordinary goals form? But how big a hole is the loss of mercurial "Kiwi Messi" Marco Rojas?
LESSONS LEARNT FROM LAST SEASON
Keep doing what you do. Let’s not forget, they were a whisker away from scoring - and potentially winning - in the grand final had Jimmy Troisi’s strike not hit the post in extra time. Lesson is: the philosophy and structure are spot on. Just tweak as needed.
A huge first three weeks of the season: Grand Final rematch, Melbourne derby and an away trip to state rivals the Reds, in that order.
Familiar faces returning will ensure a smooth transition for a trio of top-drawer talents in Mark Milligan, James Troisi and Kosta Barbarouses. Along with Berisha, they’ll continue to hurt teams going forward.
Socceroo call ups for Troisi and Milligan (and potentially Williams) may hurt them at key times.
Muscat will, as always, tweak the overall plan and structure, as part of the evolution of any Victory side. That said, the press high, dominate teams and attack as best form of defence mantra doesn’t change. It could be interesting, though, if at times Muscat adopts a 3-4-3 like his mentor Ange Postecoglou has with the national team.
Thomas Deng. After a year loan in the Dutch Eredivisie, big things are expected from this young defender who has a huge future in the game.
Back in the A-League Grand Final, on the back of a winning Premiership, and a successful group stage in the ACL. With a dash of luck, which they didn’t have at times last season, it’s all entirely do-able.