Castro v Honda: comparing two Hyundai A-League superstars
Star marquee players Diego Castro and Keisuke Honda will lead Perth Glory and Melbourne Victory into a titanic Hyundai A-League battle on Saturday evening.
It's a top of the table clash when Castro's ladder-leading Perth welcome Honda's third-placed Victory to Western Australia for their 10.00pm AEDT kick off.
And given the way both have performed in the competition this season, the Spaniard's wizardry and Japanese maestro's guile are sure to influence the outcome of Saturday's mightily anticipated contest.
The pair forged their reputations in Europe - Castro with Sporting Gijon and Getafe in La Liga, Honda at Serie A powerhouse AC Milan and Russian giants CSKA Moscow – and have thrilled Australian audiences with goals, assists and sublime skills this season.
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Both versatile attacking midfielders by trade, the duo use craft and intelligence to guide their teams forward, probing for openings and working hard to create and capitalise on chances.
Each has chipped in with six goals for their club so far this season, with Honda also providing five assists in his maiden campaign in Australia.
Castro, meanwhile, has three registered assists to his name in Glory's free-scoring attack.
The stats: Castro v Honda
“I’m sure he can go on. I don’t have any doubt about him going on after what I’ve seen,” Popovic said of the player known as El Maestro.
“He is well enough and fit enough to continue and make an impact.
I have the utmost respect for Diego as a person and a player. If he decides he wants to play at the end of the year, well then I’d love that to be with us at Perth.”
For his part, Japan international Honda has won a whole new legion of fans in his first season in the Hyundai A-League.
"He looks after himself unbelievably well," Victory boss Kevin Muscat has said. "He's the utmost professional the way he carries himself and looks after himself."
In terms of direct bragging rights, it is Castro who holds all the aces this season, with Glory winning 3-2 at AAMI Park back in October, and enjoying a 2-1 triumph at the same venue in February.
Honda returned from a month out with an injury to his right hamstring for that February clash, but could do nothing to stop Glory from marching seven points clear at the top of the Hyundai A-League summit.
Two goals in eight second-half minutes from Neil Kilkenny and that man Diego Castro overshadowed Honda's first appearance since December 14.
Seven weeks later he gets his chance for revenge as Victory head west to challenge the ladder-leaders in their own backyard.
Whoever comes out on top in this latest clash, one thing is for certain: Diego Castro and Keisuke Honda have helped to put the Hyundai A-League up in lights this season.
Perth Glory host Melbourne Victory at HBF Park on Saturday evening (10.00pm AEDT)