Erik Paartalu says Melbourne City are trying to embrace a 'big-team' mentality ahead of Saturday's Melbourne derby, and he reckons the Bundoora-based outfit is "starting to feel like a real football club".
City will enter the derby against Melbourne Victory with three straight wins under their belt, while their arch-rivals have suffered three losses on the bounce following Wednesday's night's 1-0 defeat at Perth Glory.
With Victory having won the past three Melbourne derbies, midfield strongman Paartalu is aware of the prospect on offer at AAMI Park.
"It's something we need to change if we want to be a big club in this league and really pushing to be a top team; we need to beat teams like Melbourne Victory regardless of the circumstances," he said on Thursday.
"It's a great opportunity for us on Saturday night."
City are suddenly favourites for the Melbourne Derby - arguably a unique viewpoint for the club formerly known as Heart.
Paartalu has warned his team-mates the A-League will not take them "seriously" until they win games against genuine title contenders.
Expectations have clearly risen since Heart became City, following the club's purchase by City Football Group (CFG).
But like CFG's flagship - Manchester City - the club based in Melbourne's northern suburbs have taken time to understand they are suddenly a powerhouse.
It took Manchester City three seasons to win their first trophy after the Abu Dhabi money came pouring in, while they won their first Premier League title in the fourth year of the new era.
In the Hyundai A-League last season - the first under CFG's banner - Melbourne City scraped into the finals and, after knocking off Wellington Phoenix, John van 't Schip's men were crushed 3-0 by Victory in the semi-finals.
But three big wins - albeit against some of the A-League's weaker sides - has "certainly changed" the atmosphere at City, according to Paartalu.
"It's given us even more reason to see the proof is in the pudding, so to speak," he said.
"We have great facilities, great care from the staff and great training sessions.
"Everything's there for us as a platform and only recently have we started to believe in that and that culture is being created every day. For the first time it's starting to feel like a real football club."
Paartalu has also sensed a growing ruthless streak from his coach, as van 't Schip looks to end his trophy drought in Australia.
"As a manager, that's something that he's grown into as well," Paartalu said.
"Expectations have gone up with all of us at this club, and I guess this season is a big season for the club and everyone feels that expectation. It's not a bad thing, I think it's a very good thing."