Muscat weighs up midfield options

Melbourne Victory head coach Kevin Muscat is weighing up his midfield options ahead of Tuesday’s Asian Champions League game against Kawasaki Frontale.

With Carl Valeri suspended and Matias Sanchez unavailable, Muscat is looking for the best-suited replacement in central midfield.

Preview: Melbourne Victory v Kawasaki

Josh Hope made a brief cameo off the bench last Wednesday night in Kawasaki, but Muscat is keeping his cards close to his chest on if the youngster will start.

However, Muscat did confirm that Victory will press high up the field and make the visitors uncomfortable in possession, with both sides in need of a win to maintain hope of advancing to the Round of 16.

On Valeri’s replacement…

“Obviously, Valeri is suspended after picking up a yellow card. With Sanchez unavailable, we’re a little bit thin [in midfield], but it creates an opportunity. We’ve looked at Josh Hope, he came on last week and he is improving. Leigh [Broxham] can play in there as well.

“The younger players are having to earn their opportunity and Christian is an example of that. He has been patient and Josh is in the same boat. Whether he starts or not is something we are going to have to weigh up.”

On the importance of Tuesday’s game…

“We are hellbent on performing to a certain level. Based on where the teams sit and looking forward to Shanghai and Ulsan, who knows what the group will look like post-game. We just have to take care of business and our performance is key.

“We’ve returned from Japan with a hard-earned point and trained over the last couple of days. This is why this competition is so great and this is why we want to be in it. Tomorrow night will be great and this is what we’re here for.”

On the draw in Japan…

“We had a good idea of what to expect after observing their first few league games. They won again on the weekend and the way they play is very attractive.

“Based on the fact they played on Saturday and then travelled, I dare say it will be a bit of a shootout. We want to dictate the tempo as they did last week and we’ve prepared well in terms of training.”

“The late goal gave us a bit of a lift. Chrissy [Theoharous] comes on and we ask players to come on and influence the game and the players are doing that when the opposition are tiring. What Christian did when he received the ball was something we had been working on and he won the reward. It was a big reward for the players’ persistence.”

On the standard of Japanese football…

“Japanese football is unbelievable technically. They play at a high level as a group. Different to Korea and China where they are more based on individuals. Kawasaki are a possession-based team and they average over 60% possession in their games. That wasn’t the case when we played them.

“They’re a very well-respected team in their own country, but we want to send a clear message that we’re not just going to sit back and make up the numbers. We’re going to have a real crack.”

On what to expect from the visitors…

“The way they change the tempo, with a midfielder dropping out to create a back three, to suddenly being very explosive when they enter our half.

“They press immediately when they don’t have the ball and they also retreat when we’re comfortable in possession. They don’t really play with wingers and they have three attacking midfielders behind the striker.

“We will try to play to our strengths and put more pressure on them higher up the park to affect their build up and turnover. We want to make them uncomfortable when in possession.

“If anything, we’re going to increase the tempo and the amount of pressure we put them under. There’s risks involved in that, but that’s what I and the players crave.”