Keisuke Honda believes Melbourne Victory will face stiff competition from the rest of the Hyundai A-League when the new season kicks off in little over a week’s time.
Elsewhere, at cross-city rivals Melbourne City, captain Bart Schenkeveld is banking on his side’s impressive defensive resolution to come to the fore when the two Melbourne rivals face off in round one’s derby.
It’s all in this week’s Hyundai A-League Paper Talk!
Honda: Everyone wants to win against us
Keisuke Honda believes Melbourne Victory will enter the new Hyundai A-League 2018/19 season as marked men.
Speaking at Victory’s business season launch luncheon on Wednesday, the Japanese star said Melbourne’s Championship win last season and improvement from the rest of the league means Kevin Muscat’s side must raise the bar this campaign.
“Other teams are preparing well, we won the [Grand Final] last season and I think everyone wants to win against us,” Honda said.
“I haven’t played this league yet but I know also [after] playing Australia many times, they’re physically really strong.
“It’s totally different Japanese soccer, but I would be struggling if I do not prepare well.”
Meanwhile, Victory boss Muscat says he’s looking forward to plotting the defence of his side’s 2017/18 title with a range of new exciting options at his disposal.
"It's been an exciting time for us as staff to sit down and try and work out the best way possible for the current group of players to play [together]," Muscat said at Victory’s business season launch luncheon.
"Winning is the objective, we'll work out a way that is going to best suit us and in the Victory manner, I want it to be exciting, I want it to be attacking.
"It's taking time, it's going to take some time but we'll be ready next week and one thing's for sure, we'll keep progressing and getting better as the season goes on."
City captain backs defence ahead of Melbourne derby showdown
Melbourne City captain Bart Schenkeveld says his side are primed for round one’s Melbourne derby.
Much of the pre-season Hyundai A-League build-up has concerned the big-name arrivals of Honda and Swedish star Ola Toivonen across town.
But the imposing Dutch centre-back believes Warren Joyce’s side have the defensive nous to repel their rivals when they face off on Saturday, October 20.
Speaking to Melbourne City’s official website, Schenkeveld said a run of commanding defensive performances in pre-season have City entering that clash full of confidence.
“It’s always good that you are racking up clean sheets as a team. We know the structure is right and we can only continue to build from there,” Schenkeveld said.
“Everybody is looking forward to getting started for the season. It's been a long pre-season and we've worked incredibly hard. We want to start playing for something and the season gives us this opportunity and we all can't wait for the derby.”
Shane Lowry reveals new and improved attitude at Glory
Perth Glory have been betrayed by a soft underbelly in recent Hyundai A-League seasons.
But according to defender Shane Lowry, new boss Tony Popovic has transformed the Western Australians into a much-improved force for the new season.
The 29-year-old says Popovic’s back to basics approach has instilled a ruthless mentality that cuts a telling contrast from the side’s enigmatic displays over the past few Hyundai A-League campaigns.
“We’ve just gone back to basics, right from back to front working on defending and the midfielders and attackers,” he told Perth Glory’s official website.
“And just installing that will to win, that desire and accountability. If you don’t work hard, you’re not going to play – it’s as simple as that. That’s a given.
“Tactically, we have to try and implement what he’s saying to us in the meetings and on the pitch. If you’re not doing what the boss wants, you can’t have any qualms about not playing.”