‘I’m so excited to play City’: Honda primed for Hyundai A-League debut in Melbourne Derby
After a preparation like nothing he’s ever experienced before, marquee Melbourne Victory attacker Keisuke Honda says he’s excited to start his Hyundai A-League journey in Saturday night’s Melbourne Derby.
Honda confirmed he’ll start the highly-anticipated season-opener against Victory’s bitter rivals Melbourne City in what should be a bumper crowd at Marvel Stadium.
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And the start of the season can’t come soon enough for the Japanese legend, after coming through the longest pre-season of his distinguished career.
Never before in his time at the likes of AC Milan, CSKA Moscow or Pachuca has he endured such a long pre-season schedule.
While admitting he’s surprised to be playing a derby in the opening round, he’s relishing the size of the occasion for his first taste of Hyundai A-League football.
"I also have a lot of experience, derby experience. I know how this game is important," Honda told reporters on Thursday.
“The first experience in the derby and [being the] first game of our season, this is unusual and maybe it's connecting with the business side of things. The Stadium will be full.
“It will be a very difficult game, a sensitive game, even the experienced players cannot play comfortably. It's important to prepare mentally.
"I've been preparing for two or three months...and finally we can play against Melbourne City on Saturday. I'm so excited."
Getting to know Victory’s city rivals
Honda may be well versed in derby football but there are some things he will be a little unsure of when he heads into battle on Saturday night.
Asked what he knows about Warren Joyce’s City side, Honda said: "I know Tim [Cahill] used to play at Melbourne City, right?
"To be honest I don't follow a lot. [But] tactically we're analysing and [coach] Kevin [Muscat] has told us a lot of things that they will do on Saturday.
"So I know them tactically, I'm OK, I'm fine. I'm ready to play against them."
Combination with Victory’s fellow star recruit
As well as Honda, Victory’s other star off-season signing was Swedish FIFA World Cup star Ola Toivonen.
Victory fans have been salivating at the prospect of the star recruits combining together as the club look to mount a strong defence of their Championship win last season.
While confident of the impact the Swedish striker will have, he urged patience admitting it may take some time before we see Toivonen at his best.
"He is obviously one of the best players in our team (though) I'm worried about his condition," Honda said of the giant Swedish attacker.
"I think he needs some time for getting his body condition right.
"I'm sure he is going to be OK. He will surprise you a lot in this season."