Aloisi up for big stage A-League opener
Photo Source: AAP
Rival managers John Aloisi and Kevin Muscat have their teams primed for the A-League's season opener on Friday night.
Melbourne Victory return to the scene of their finals elimination last year to face Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium in the hotly-anticipated match.
On paper, it's a titanic rivalry.
The two most successful clubs in A-League history.
Either side of Victory's 2014-15 title, it was the Roar who eliminated them from finals.
Victory have a history of nabbing talent from Queensland too; Ange Postecoglou, Besart Berisha, Kosta Barbarouses and now James Donachie.
But there's less animosity in this fixture than one might expect.
Berisha is still respected internally by the Roar, while Muscat and Aloisi share a great friendship.
It was at Victory where Aloisi sheltered after his tumultuous spell as Melbourne Heart coach.
And it's why both sides are confident they know how the other will play.
"They're probably the best counter-attacking team," Aloisi said.
"They'll press you hard for the first 15-20 minutes ... we'll play to the final whistle so we're confident we can create opportunities."
Muscat was similarly complimentary of his opposite number.
"Johnny's recruited well - and pretty similarly to ourselves, they've got a certain philosophy they adhere to," Muscat said.
With a reference to Victory's painful finals knock-out of last season - when they led with five minutes to go before shipping two late goals - Muscat suggested there was unfinished business to attend to.
"Our mantra of not taking a backward step, really having a go at teams and trying to dominate, it won't change," he said.
"If we perform to the same level that we did in our last game there I have no doubt in my mind that we will win."
Both sides will miss key players.
Dimi Petratos rolled his ankle in a pre-season friendly, while new Spanish winger Manuel Arana is still four weeks away from a Roar debut according to Aloisi.
Victory will miss Marco Rojas on international duty with New Zealand.
But both coaches hailed the return to fitness of key figures.
Roar defender Luke DeVere is "a big chance" to play his first A-League match since April 2015 - a home loss to Victory - after overcoming thigh and knee injuries, while Victory are delighted with Carl Valeri's return after brain-related inflammation issues sidelined him for much of last season.
Aloisi summed up the mood well ahead of the season opener.
"When it's a long offseason you just can't wait for the first game," he said.
"We know it's gong to be a good game, entertaining and the boys are ready.
Confidently, Muscat agreed.
"A lot's been said by all of us in the buildup," he said.
"Everyone says 'it's the best pre-season we've ever had, it's the fittest we've ever been'.
"All that means nothing ... I'd rather let you be the judge on Friday night."