Victory shift focus to Sky Blues
Kevin Muscat wouldn't allow himself to dwell on the achievement of beating a World Cup winner on Tuesday night, as he prepares his side to take on Sydney FC.
Kevin Muscat wouldn't allow himself to dwell on the achievement on beating one World Cup winner on Tuesday night, as he prepares to take on a team containing another, three days later.
The Melbourne Victory boss was in a jubilant mood after watching his team register a 2-0 win over AFC Champions League holders Guangzhou Evergrande. The result sent shock waves through the competition and has placed the Chinese Super League club's progression to the knockout stages in doubt.
And while Victory, level on seven points with the three other teams in Group G, now have every chance of advancing themselves, Muscat's attention has already turned to Friday's A-League elimination final against the Sydney FC of Alessandro Del Piero.
Evergrande coach Marcello Lippi led Del Piero and Italy to glory at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, but he lost out to rookie Muscat at Etihad Stadium.
Later this week it will be another former Juventus man and his Sky Blues team-mates in Victory's firing line.
'It's a game of football,' Muscat said when asked about how it felt to get the better of the ex-Azzurri boss.
'If I'm honest I'm already thinking about Friday.'
Having seen his squad stretched thin by three successive away matches against Yokohama F Marinos, the Newcastle Jets and Wellington Phoenix, Muscat claimed the buzz around the club has had a transformative effect on the condition of his players.
'All of a sudden there's no-one telling me they're fatigued or sore or tired or jetlagged,' he said.
'Everyone wants to play.'
One man who may not be involved against Frank Farina's team is centre-back Adrian Leijer, who limped off in the first half with a foot problem.
When asked he feared the defender, spotted later on crutches, had suffered a break, the Victory coach said: 'I'm hoping not.'
'But when Ado gets injured, he gets injured properly,' Muscat added with a rueful smile, referring to series of facial fractures the former captain suffered earlier this season, initially dismissed by his coach as a minor knock.
Whether or not Leijer recovers in time to face Sydney, Victory will at least get Archie Thompson back after the veteran missed the Evergrande match due to a bereavement.
He is set to rejoin a squad full of positive energy. James Troisi's injury time goal to put the result beyond doubt sparked wild celebrations among the players and staff on Tuesday, and Muscat understands the psychological value of such a euphoric moment.
'It will help, there's no doubt,' he said.
'I couldn't be happier with the position we're in. We've got three full days to prepare for Sydney. If you walk through that changing room you'll see a group of players jumping out of their skin to be in that team for Friday night.
'It's a very important game for the club and I dare say we're looking for a repeat performance.'
Notching two victories against two World Cup winners in the space of four days? Now that would really be something for the first-season coach to mark down on his growing CV.