Melbourne Victory’s Hyundai A-League season gets underway on Saturday night when it hosts Melbourne City at Marvel Stadium.
Victory and City last met in March, where Kevin Muscat’s men earned all three points at AAMI Park.
The two sides fought over a place in the top four for a majority of the season and both sides will be hoping for more of the same this season.
However, with a whole host of new signings at the disposal of both managers, Saturday’s meeting promises to be an intriguing encounter.
One name that remains forever present in the Victory squad is last season’s Joe Marston medallist, Lawrence Thomas. The Victory keeper is fully fit and relishing the prospect of a Melbourne Derby to kickstart the new campaign.
“It seems like an eternity ago since we played in the Grand Final,” said Thomas. “This is my 7th or 8th A-League pre-season now so, I’m happy to get through it and I’m really looking forward to Saturday.”
Thomas on defending the A-League Championship…
“It comes down to setting standards in the club and the daily culture, what we eat, how we prepare – every fine little detail.
“The biggest thing I took away from the Grand Final two years ago against Sydney was how minute the differences are in the big games. There are such fine margins between winning and championship and not.”
“We never look too much at anyone else. We are always trying to lead the way and the way you stay above everyone else is by your daily standards.”
On preseason preparations…
“I love the whole process of training and working hard, just as much as I love playing on the weekend. It is an opportunity to push your body in a way that you wouldn’t during the season, because obviously you need to be fresh for a game.
“We also have a new goalkeeping coach this year, which brings new ideas and different experiences from overseas. We’ve been working hard in detail and in areas that I probably haven’t before. It has been a brilliant preseason.”
On Victory’s new additions…
“They’ve settled in really well. The names speak for themselves in regard to quality.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how we turn up, on Saturday night under the big lights. I’m sure it will be positive, very aggressive and very strong.
“With myself, Big Georg in the middle, Keisuke, Raul, Jimmy up top and the big Swede as well. I think the spine is quite strong again.”
On the threat posed by Melbourne City…
“With all respect to everyone there isn’t a time in a game, unless you’re looking at penalties or set pieces, there’s no time to think about the individual. You play the game as it is, watch the ball and react to it.
“We have a set structure every week, in regard to what we look at heading into the game. This week has not been any different, we’ve looked at their structure and what they’re trying to do, which I won’t go into detail. But as I said before, it’s a standard we set whether we’re playing Adelaide or anyone else, whether it’s in a preseason friendly or next week.”
On hitting the ground running…
“In regard to the game, we need to start with a high intensity. For the last few years they have had the better of us in these early games. All that comes down to the early pressure and early intensity. We fell behind and couldn’t get back into the game.
“In all those big games, the semis, the finals, the derbies… you have to earn that respect to play early on. You have to fight hard. I assume it’s going to be fiery and quite intense early on and then you earn your right to play after that.”
On working with the new coaching staff…
“I’m obviously working with Carlos [Perez Salvachua] a bit less, being a goalkeeper but we do a lot of footwork with the team and he has been brilliant with the squad. Jess [Vanstrattan] I obviously work closely with every day.
“The biggest thing is the detail we go into. Looking at movements and being efficient in the work we do outside of training and also in the gym. It has been great for me. Obviously, I’ve worked with some great goalkeeping coaches, but Jess has kept it fresh and I’ve really enjoyed the work.
“I’m feeling strong, confident and I am looking forward to Saturday.”