Football 3 years ago

Derby to show City's A-League gain

  • Derby to show City's A-League gain

They'll square off in a keenly-anticipated first Melbourne derby of the season on Saturday night, but before a ball is kicked in anger Melbourne's rival A-League coaches are keeping it clean.

Melbourne City coach John van `t Schip says Victory are deserving title favourites and Kevin Muscat, the championship-winning manager of Melbourne Victory, concedes City are a better team than the one they turfed out of title contention in May's semi-final.

But whether they've improved enough to turn around Victory's recent domination of the Melbourne derby remains to be seen.

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Muscat's side were ruthless in a trio of three-goal demolitions of City last term.

The last - a 3-0 win that took Victory into the grand final - showed the gulf between the two sides and therefore the scale of the task facing van `t Schip as he looks to turn City into a championship force.

Van `t Schip said the champions deserved to be favourites for the season ahead but that also meant extra attention in every match between now and May's finals series.

"After winning and a season like that, it's normal they start favourites, they will be the team to beat," he told AAP.

"But they know that they are the team that's going to get chased, and we're going to be one of the ones trying to do that."

City can draw strength from a 1-0 reverse earned with a late Erik Paartalu header last December.

Muscat called the Melbourne derby the "premier game in the country", saying he expected an even a tougher battle from van `t Schip's side this season.

"What they've done across the road, they've improved."

"They're starting to raise their standards and that can only be good for the competition."

In contrast to City, who boast a list of new players that runs into double figures, Victory kept their off-season business short and sweet.

All three signings new to the club - goalkeeper Danny Vukovic, marquee midfielder Oliver Bozanic and rookie defender Giancarlo Gallifuoco - could be involved on Saturday night.

Muscat fell short of agreeing he had a better team this season than his championship-winning group, but he could see the upside of his current squad.

"There's so many things that will determine whether we do better, including what everyone else does too," he said.

"I do know that (departed captain Mark Milligan) was an outstanding performer for us, we wish him well, and we move on.

"We've probably got a little bit more diversity and a few more options so I'm really comfortable with how we've recruited."

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