Chinese challenge awaits Melbourne Victory

Melbourne Victory today arrived in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou ahead of its international friendly against Chinese Super League (CSL) side Guangzhou Pharmaceutical at YueXiuShan Stadium this Friday.

Melbourne Victory today arrived in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou ahead of its international friendly against Chinese Super League (CSL) side Guangzhou Pharmaceutical at YueXiuShan Stadium this Friday.

Fresh from announcing that captain Kevin Muscat will again lead the team in 2009/10, Melbourne Victory has taken a strong squad abroad, with Carlos Hernandez, Glen Moss, Michael Theoklitos and Surat Sukha the only absentees.

Hernandez and Moss are on international duty with Costa Rica and New Zealand respectively, while Theoklitos remains on a rehabilitation program and Sukha with Thai club Chonburi FC in its AFC Cup 2009 campaign.

Promising striker Nathan Elasi will join the team on Thursday en route from Qantas Young Socceroos commitments in Europe, with Melbourne Victory Youth players Matthew Foschini and Tedros Yabio promoted to round out the touring party.

Following its match against Guangzhou, Melbourne Victory will travel to Tianjin, where it will defend the Lord Mayor-s Cup in a second international friendly against CSL outfit Tianjin Teda on Sunday.

Melbourne Victory Coach Ernie Merrick said while the team-s performance in both matches is important, there will be just as much emphasis on giving players game time ahead of the club-s 2009/10 assault.

“It-s very good preparation, firstly for the Hyundai A-League season, and secondly for the AFC Champions League,” Merrick said from China on Wednesday.

“We-re facing the sorts of challenges we-ll face in the ACL, where we-ll be grouped against teams from China, Korea and Japan, so this is an ideal trip.

“It-s all about travelling, preparation and two high quality games against two impressive teams.

“We want to do well in both games and we want to retain the Lord Mayor-s Cup, but at the same time we want to give everyone the opportunity to have a run, especially the couple of youth players we-ve brought with us.”

Merrick acknowledged the support of Golden Star International Investment, which has sponsored and funded Melbourne Victory-s all-expenses paid trip to China, allowing the club to also focus on its travel and recovery procedures.

“We wouldn-t normally fly overnight to an important game, but for this tour, given that it-s only seven days, there-s a lot of travel and we-re going from one end of China to the other, we didn-t have any other options,” Merrick said.

“The extra duress and physical stress on the body caused by the flights will be a challenge, but it allows us to focus and work on the recovery protocols we-ve put in place for flying.

“We-ve brought a good medical team over with two physios, a doctor, sports scientist and strength and conditioning coach to put into practice the protocols that we have adopted over the last couple of years.”

Guangzhou currently sits ninth on the CSL ladder and is undefeated at YueXiuShan Stadium this season, having drawn its most recent match at home against second-placed Shandong Luneng.

Guangzhou Pharmaceutical v Melbourne Victory Friday, June 5, 7:45pm (9:45pm AEST) YueXiuShan Stadium, Guangzhou, China

Tianjin Teda v Melbourne Victory Sunday, June 7, 7:30pm (9:30pm AEST) TEDA Football Stadium, Tianjin, China