Melbourne Victory Head Coach Kevin Muscat will take an in-form team to Brisbane this weekend, knowing that despite injuries his squad has been well prepared to continue its recent run of form.
“The five [wins] in a row doesn’t interest me one little bit,” Muscat said on Thursday morning.
“There’s only one that’s important and that’s tomorrow night against Brisbane. We’ve prepared and planned meticulously to play against Brisbane.
“This week has been about preparing, not recovering. We’ll worry about ourselves and make sure we’re in a good frame of mind and a good position to win a game of football.”
Unfortunately those preparations haven’t included the likes of Georg Niedermeier and Raul Baena, with two of Muscat’s key off-season imports to miss the Suncorp Stadium clash through injury.
“Georg has strained some ligaments [in his ankle], so unfortunately for him he’s had an ordinary run with injury.
“A couple of concussions and [now] rolling his ankle… when you watch the vision you’d probably think that [he’d miss the derby], but I’m not going to put a timeframe on it.
“He’s had a good week in terms of reducing swelling and bruising, he’s working tirelessly morning and afternoon to give himself every chance of coming back as soon as possible.”
As for Baena, the Spaniard has been grounded by a hamstring strain and will be monitored ahead of a return.
“[Raul has] trained all week. I’ve ruled him out of the weekend just to err on the side of caution considering his off-season and pre-season.
“Based on all those things we’ll take our time with him and make sure he’s right before we get him back in the side.”
On a positive front James Troisi has fully recovered from the illness that sidelined him against Western Sydney, while Nick Ansell returns to the squad following a shoulder issue suffered against the Wanderers.
“[James] is able to start if required. Nick Ansell is another one who’s trained all week, so we get another body back.”
Muscat was keen to stress how pleased his been with his players’ resilience and willingness to adapt in the face of injury and unavailability, with the depth of the squad allowing a flexibility he hasn’t been afforded in years past.
“It’s a credit to the group that the players who are coming on during games and the players coming into the team have stepped up and not let the side down. In fact, they’ve influenced games.
“When players started joining and there were discussions about what we might look like and how we were going to set up, [flexibility] was the main thing.
“The thinking at the time was we’d have a greater flexibility especially in the front two thirds of the park; a greater flexibility in personnel and structure.”
And so far that structure has had an unflinching team-first ethos at its heart.
“At the moment there are individuals getting high accolades, but the reality is that the individuals are performing as they are because the team, the unit and togetherness is so organised and disciplined…
“And that’s testament to what I’m alluding to… players come in, whether it’s Nick Ansell, Leigh Broxham, Kenny Athiu at the start of the season… they’ve come in and been able to perform at a level that suggests a lot of work has been done as a group.
“Make no mistake, [our form] is not coming from one player, it’s the group.”
Melbourne Victory plays Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium this Friday night. Kick-off at 7:50pm.