Season preview: Melbourne Victory

Kevin Muscat has officially shaped the Melbourne Victory squad as his own, so the pressure will be on to guide the club to their first championship since 2009.

Muscat took the reins in October last year following Ange Postecoglou's appointment as Socceroos boss and he went on to reach the semi-finals with a team put together by his predecessor.

Pablo Contreras, Adama Traore, James Troisi (loan), James Jeggo and Tom Rogic (loan) have since departed as Muscat prepares for his first full season at the helm.

The former Victory captain wasted little time filling his squad with experience, with Besart Berisha, Carl Valeri, Matthieu Delpierre, Daniel Georgievski and Fahid Ben Khalfallah on board for the 10th Hyundai A-League season.

All five recruits have international pedigree, making Victory one of the teams to beat in 2014-15.

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THE BURNING QUESTIONS

Can Victory stop leaking goals?

If Victory want to relive the glory days, they must improve defensively.

While Victory reached the finals last season, they conceded a woeful 43 goals in 27 matches with only Wellington Phoenix (51) shipping more.

City rivals Melbourne Heart (now City) alarmingly conceded less goals (42), despite finishing adrift at the foot of the table in 2013-14.

Full-back was a particular problem last season, though Macedonia international Georgievski should help compensate for the loss of star Traore, while former Stuttgart captain Delpierre will provide some much needed strength in defence alongside Adrian Leijer and Nick Ansell.

Will Victory end their hunt for silverware?

Happy to parade the tag as Australia's biggest club, it has been a long time between drinks for the Big V.

After winning two titles in three campaigns, Victory have not tasted glory in five campaigns as a rampant Brisbane Roar side revolutionised and dominated the competition.

Postecoglou's arrival in 2012 promised so much but the championship-winning coach was unable to complete his project as national-team duty came calling.

With the honeymoon period over, Muscat has now been tasked with bringing back the glory days to AAMI Park.

LESSONS LEARNT FROM LAST SEASON

Victory played without a recognised centre forward last season and it proved costly during the finals campaign, with Muscat lacking a get-out option up front.

Berisha is the final piece in the jigsaw, with his ability to hold the ball up, attack crosses and harass defenders a welcome addition.

ROAD AHEAD

Victory remain on track to win the inaugural Westfield FFA Cup, with a quarter-final trip to Perth Glory scheduled for October 29.

That fixture comes just days before their round two clash against Adelaide United at Hindmarsh, while it is only days after their mouth-watering Melbourne derby.

Victory have the luxury of playing three of their first four matches (including the Melbourne derby) on home soil, with the Wanderers and Wellington Phoenix both making the trek to Melbourne.

EXPECTED STRENGTHS

Expect more goals after Victory bolstered their midfield and attacking stocks.

Valeri's arrival will ease the load on captain Mark Milligan in the centre of the park, while Ben Khalfallah and Berisha add to an already impressive forward line boasting Archie Thompson, Kosta Barbarouses, Gui Finkler and Connor Pain.

POTENTIAL WEAKNESS

Victory have produced some of the country's best goalkeepers, with Michael Theo, Eugene Galekovic and Mitch Langerak all emerging from the navy blue-and-whites.

But the goalkeeping department has been a cause for concern in recent seasons. After parting ways with 2011-12 Player of the Year Ante Covic, who has gone on to enjoy great success in Western Sydney, Victory have struggled in his absence.

Nathan Coe was signed from Denmark and while he has shown glimpses, the 30-year-old has failed to convince. His understudy Lawrence Thomas has also looked shaky between the sticks when given a chance.

TACTICAL APPROACH

Gone are the days of Postecoglou's experimental 4-2-2-2 striker-less formation. This season, Victory will play a 4-3-3 with Berisha leading the line, flanked by the likes of Thompson and Barbarouses.

Having spent his first two seasons sharing the creative load, Finkler will slot in behind Berisha and ahead of Milligan and Valeri in Muscat's ideal line-up, while Delpierre and Leijer will be expected to lead the defence.

BREAKOUT STAR

After bursting on the scene in 2012-13, Connor Pain has struggled for form and consistency at AAMI Park.

Last season, the 20-year-old Australia youth international made 17 appearances though he looked off the pace.

Fast forward to pre-season and it looks as if Pain is set for a big season, having scored seven goals in the lead up to Victory's league opener against Western Sydney Wanderers.

NIGHTMARE HEADLINE

"Berisha gone for the season as Victory lose opening game"

FAN’S SAY

PREDICTIONS

Dejan Kalinic (Omnisport)

With a bit of luck, Victory are good enough to go all the way.

Adam Peacock (Fox Sports): 1st

John Kosmina (former Socceroo): 1st

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