Victory coach Kevin Muscat (left) and City coach Warren Joyce can’t wait until the Melbourne derby.The A-League’s master of understatement, Melbourne City coach Warren Joyce, calls it just another game.
But the reality is Saturday night’s Melbourne derby is so much more for both his club and the league.
After Friday night’s season opener in Adelaide, where United welcome premiers Sydney FC, Marvel Stadium will host the colour and the noise of the A-League’s biggest drawcard – a cross-town showdown.
Around 40,000 are expected, and should the number be reached it would signal a return to health for the maligned competition after lacklustre term last season.
Keisuke Honda, the league’s biggest new name since Alessandro Del Piero wore sky blue, will debut for Melbourne Victory, which can show off its A-League championship won last May.
And perhaps that’s why Joyce was keeping a lid on things on Friday.
“I don’t look at it as a party. It’s just a game we both want to win,” he said.
“It’s not a party, it’s a game of football. Two competitive teams and two competitive managers that both want to win.
“Who ever you (would be) playing tomorrow night, you’d want to win the game,” he said, nonplussed.
Muscat has two major injury doubts – newly arrived Swedish striker Ola Toivonen and captain Carl Valeri – but took the opposite approach to his opposite number, building up expectation.
“Tomorrow is a huge occasion,” he said.
“Our members and fans once again will be there to support us in huge numbers.
“We look forward to it as it’s been a long time since we’ve seen them. It will be a fierce contest.
No stranger to the raucous derby atmosphere, Muscat said settling into the environment would be crucial.
“In previous derbies, and I don’t think tomorrow will be any different, it’s been really hot in there and particularly in midfield,” he said.
“Composure on the ball is key.
“Once the game settles down the team that has the most composure with the ball will create ascendancy.”
While Victory have attracted the biggest stars, City have opted for lower key internationals such as Ritchie de Laet and Florin Berenguer.
Joyce said names – of both Victory’s side and his own – were unimportant.
“Everybody’s got two arms and two legs and that’s how we treat everyone we’re playing against,” he said.
“They’ve got a lot of stars. They had a lot of stars last year.
“Every team in the league has got good players.
“You’ve got to give them respect but no respect – the respect they deserve.
“What matters is what happens on the grass.”