Captain's Corner: Carl Valeri believes Champions Victory are 'much better' this season
In the latest of our series of columns from the Hyundai A-League Finals Series club captains, Melbourne Victory skipper Carl Valeri looks forward in his own words to Friday's Elimination Final against Wellington Phoenix.
Read on for Valeri's thoughts on the excitement of finals football, Victory's year-on-year improvement, the challenge presented by Wellington Phoenix and the fast-approaching end of his senior playing career.
PREVIEW: Melbourne Victory v Wellington Phoenix
CAPTAIN'S CORNER: Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante
INS AND OUTS: Troisi still out of action for Victory, plus all the team news
“I love playing in finals. I love the week coming into finals, because it’s exciting and the fans create an amazing atmosphere.
“Our fans and the members are very special to us. The sound, the feel… I’m really looking forward to it. I know we all are.
For me, the most important thing is the team. It always has been and the main focus is that, because in finals it’s always the team that does well – you can’t remember any individuals, it’s always the team.”
Looking back at 2018/19… so far
“This season has been much better. Much more positive. We've played good football, better football than last year.
“Points-wise, we've finished better off. We've had more wins. There are so many positives. And this team on paper is fantastic.
“But the finals is a clean slate and you go again. We have three games to do it and that begins on Friday.”
The Wellington challenge
“Wellington are a great team, and I emphasise the word team. They fight hard and work hard for each other.
“It's all about those little battles on the pitch: who is prepared to work harder to turn the 50-50 ball into their own? It's those little things that will add up and win us the game.
“We've had some great games against Wellington this year, but finals are totally different.
“It’s down to those little key moments, which we know and we focus on and we’ve been good at in the past.
“The past is the past and who knows what to expect? But we’re working hard and we’re preparing for it.”
End of an era
“I’m not treating the last few weeks of my career any differently to the rest of it. I just can’t. I’ve done it for so long. It's like when you're in such a routine to prepare for games and to approach games in a certain way, it’s almost impossible for me to do anything else.
“I made the decision to myself not to over-emphasise everything. Just to treat it like I have done in the past, leave nothing out on the pitch, which is one of the things I always try and do, and that’s been my main focus.
“I haven’t got caught up in the emotions of it. There will be plenty of time to have a cry, have a laugh, afterwards with my friends, with my family.
“For now, we all need to concentrate on the business at hand.”