Kevin Muscat has sought to turn the tables in the battle of wills leading up to the Hyundai A-League semi-finals, claiming Melbourne Victory's Premiers' Plate triumph and iron-clad self-belief will make life difficult for Melbourne City.
The message coming from the City camp this week has been loud and clear – having finished top of the regular season standings, Victory should be considered favourites for the huge clash at Etihad Stadium on Friday night and have the most to lose by failing to reach the Grand Final.
The Victory coach though rejected claims his players are feeling the heat, insisting Victory's entire season has been geared toward thriving in big games.
"That whole pressure thing … we've prepared very well for these situations, this is where we wanted to be," Muscat told reporters on Thursday.
"We've spent a long time preparing for that. And I suppose you would feel under pressure if you hadn't prepared well.
"The pressure thing doesn't come to the front of my mind because we know what we've prepared for and what we've planned very, very well for."
Pressed on the psychological aspect of their status as favourites, the Victory coach was adamant the risks and rewards of the occasion apply equally to Melbourne City, as well as Sydney FC and Adelaide United, who meet at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
"There's four teams on the weekend with just as much to lose as anyone else," he said.
"From the same token, just as much to gain as anyone else. We certainly know what's up for grabs.
"The belief going through the group – that's been evident in the way we've performed. If anything, maybe a little bit of pressure's been lifted. We've managed to lift a trophy this season.
"The belief is very, very strong. The application is the main thing now.
"I know the group is very comfortable and [has] got a great deal of belief in what we do and the way we go about things.
"What's left from here is just the concentration and application. That's the hardest thing, that's the thing the players are going to have to do."
Other than goalkeeper Nathan Coe, who underwent back surgery late last month, Muscat has a full strength squad to choose from, with the coach claiming his starting XI has been all but decided a day before the match.
The game is expected to draw around 50,000 fans.