Melbourne City FC Head Coach John van’t Schip believes the Melbourne Derby is always a special occasion on the Hyundai A-League calendar, as the Club prepares for its crucial clash against rivals Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park.
City enters the 18th edition of the Melbourne Derby in a confident mood after recording three consecutive league wins, scoring 14 goals and conceding only two in matches against Central Coast Perth Glory and Newcastle Jets.
While both sides are experiencing a contrast in fortunes at present, van’t Schip said the intense rivalry and special nature of the Melbourne Derby puts the current form of both teams into perspective.
“If you look at the numbers of the last three games, you’d say yes [we are favourites], but as I said this is a game that is very special, it’s different,” he said.
“We have to prepare ourselves in the best possible way and be aware on where we can hurt them and also know where their strong points are. That doesn’t change, we just have to focus on our game plan and make sure we try to get as much out of it as possible.
“We all know that that the differences are very, very small. They’re the champions and they’re the team that won everything last year and that doesn’t disappear overnight so they know that, we know that, and for us it’s just focusing on the game and continuing the things we are doing.”
With City ahead of their cross-town rivals by a single point in third position on the Hyundai A-League table, the Dutchman acknowledged the importance of winning matches against the top sides in such a tight competition.
“If you want to really make an impact then you have to win a lot of those games. You know the A-League is tight but we have to start winning from the teams that are normally in the top four and I think Victory is one of them. If you want to become one of the best teams in the A-League, it’s important to win those games as well.”
City see the inclusion of Northern Ireland international Aaron Hughes into the squad as a replacement for the injured Connor Chapman, with the young defender sidelined for three months with a MCL tear in his knee.
Left-back Michael Zullo is another who is still to return from injury, with van’t Schip erring on the side of caution for the Socceroos defender’s imminent return to first team action.
“Michael is still not in the squad. He looks better and better but we want to take it a bit longer this time because every time he’s come back, he got a setback,” he said.
“So we just want to keep him a bit longer in the training environment before he goes out for a game.”
Looking to avenge the Club’s last-gasp loss to Victory in Round 2 earlier this season, van’t Schip called upon the City faithful to come out in numbers for the latest chapter of the Melbourne Derby.
“We hope of course the fans find their way to the stadium because it’s important we have a good atmosphere and we have them behind us to give us that extra support,” he said.
“It is just one game but it’s a Derby. Every time we say that, it’s something special and should be something special because it’s great we have two teams playing against each other in the same city.
“We’ve seen in the past that these games are enjoyable for the neutral but also for the winning fans because there is a big rivalry, and that makes it very interesting to play those games.”