The imminent return of skipper Carl Valeri could be the difference in the helter-skelter atmosphere of a Melbourne Derby, says Victory coach Kevin Muscat.
The former Socceroo midfielder is set to return to the starting XI on Saturday night to face cross-town rivals City in a highly anticipated Melbourne Derby.
Due to injury, the Victory captain and defensive midfielder missed last week’s 0-0 draw with Adelaide United in Round 1 of the Hyundai A-League.
But in a game that’s just as much about emotion as it is skill and tactics, Muscat senses the former Italian-based Socceroo could make a key contribution in the white-hot atmosphere of a derby.
“He brings experience to the team on the back of a very good season. He’s looking forward to it,” Muscat told reporters on Friday morning at Etihad Stadium.
“He brings a calmness along with three or four other [experienced players] in our team.
“And it could be the difference for us tomorrow night.”
However, Muscat remained coy on the replacement for the versatile Leigh Broxham, who was sent off last week at Adelaide Oval.
Options defensively are youngsters Thomas Deng, new face Giancarlo Gallifuoco from Swansea City and the more experienced Daniel Georgievski.
“I’ve got some thoughts,” said Muscat. “But at this point in time we’ll wait and see and have another look this morning.
“We’ve worked on a few different scenarios this week but whoever comes in tomorrow night will be well supported by the rest of the team.”
Muscat is continuing to assess his Olyroos players after they arrived back from two games in Korea Republic played over the last week.
“Some looked sharper than others. But they’re all in contention,” he said of his U-23 quartet of Jason Geria, Connor Pain, Scott Galloway and Gallifuoco.
Muscat also played down the significance of Danny Vukovic being posed to break the A-League appearance record, saying it was all about the game and not records.
“It isn’t exciting anybody… we’ll congratulate him after the game.”
Victory trained on what is an excellent surface at Etihad on Friday morning.
“We’ve enjoyed some really good times here,” Muscat added. “The pitch looks in very good condition and hopefully it plays like it.
“The responsibility is on us to give the fans something to sing about and cheer about and go home happy."