Melbourne City FC will look to secure its place in the last four of the Westfield FFA Cup when John van’t Schip’s side face National Premier Leagues (NPL) Victoria outfit Heidelberg United in the Quarter Finals on Tuesday night.
In what will be the first FFA Cup encounter between a member federation team and an A-League club both based in Victoria, City will make the short trip to Olympic Village Stadium in Heidelberg for the historic local derby.
After suffering a premature end to their NPL Victoria campaign with a penalty shoot-out defeat to Pascoe Vale in the elimination final, Heidelberg will look to build upon their solid form in the FFA Cup.
George Katsakis’ men have already enjoyed cup success on home soil this campaign, with goals to Dan Heffernan and Kenny Athiu sealing a memorable 2-0 win over Sydney United 58 in the Round of 16.
With a spot in the Semi-Final up for grabs, van’t Schip is wary of the threat posed by their NPL opponents and believes the clash is the ideal preparation for the start of the Hyundai A-League season.
“It is a team we know quite well, they finished third in the NPL and it’s a team that is balanced and have done well in the FFA Cup,” he said.
“They’re a team that have good players upfront. They lost their striker [Dan Heffernan] who went to Central Coast, but for this special game they have the Greek international [Kostas] Katsouranis to play.
“That is why we are so happy with the FFA Cup. It is bringing in this special kind of preparation that you need when you head into the A-League season.
“It’s going to be very interesting and we have to prepare ourselves very well for this game.”
With a bumper crowd expected to grace the Olympic Village to witness star Greek international Kostas Katsouranis in action for Heidelberg, van’t Schip said his side will not be affected by the culture shock from playing at a local venue.
“We’ve been playing the last few years in all kinds of venues in Melbourne. We’ve played at Oakleigh and at Hume and Epping was our home base for a period of time,” he said.
“The only difference is that it is an important game. As we know in the FFA Cup there is always surprises and we have to make sure we are prepared.
“Everybody expects us to win, that is also logic because we are the A-League team but it is eleven against eleven and we have to make sure from the start that we are there.”
Boasting over 116 international caps and playing stints in Greece and Portugal, Heidelberg’s capture of Katsouranis on a short-term deal is arguably one of the most stunning transfer coups made by a member federation club in Australia.
Heidelberg United captain Luke Byles said the entire club had been swept up by the excitement of Katsouranis’ arrival and are relishing the challenge of facing a formidable City outfit.
“I can’t actually believe it,” he said. “It is fantastic for the club to have a player of his stature come and play. With the Greek population in Melbourne you’d like to think that a few neutrals and extras will come to the ground and the exposure for the club has been phenomenal.
“The boys are absolutely buzzing. The training has probably been the best it has been all season.
“We just have to be compact and positive. There will be a big crowd and playing an A-League team, hopefully everyone can put their nerves to one side and take the game to them.”
New Melbourne City FC goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen is also expected to make his competitive debut, with van’t Schip praising the former Danish international’s attitude and professionalism since joining the Club.
“We wanted to have more experience in that [goalkeeper] position. Bringing in Thomas we think that is essential for our group. He’s a very experienced goalkeeper and he is adding a lot of personality into the group.
“We have refreshed the group in a lot of positions because we were not happy with the energy that was going around the last year on some occasions.
“That’s also a step we want to make. We want to grow as a team and as a club and Thomas is very important for us in that aspect.”