The desperation for three points for both clubs should ensure another incident-packed clash with bitter rivals Adelaide United, according to Melbourne Victory boss Kevin Muscat.
In a blockbuster Good Friday battle at Coopers Stadium, the Hyundai A-League’s original rivals square-off in a match that could have major ramifications for both clubs.
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The Reds will drop out of the top four if they lose to Victory, while the defending champions simply must win if they are to have any chance of leap-frogging Sydney FC into the coveted second spot.
Muscat is well aware of the history and feeling between the two clubs, having been involved since the very first meeting back in 2005/06.
The former Caltex Socceroo defender has often been the pantomime villain amongst Reds fans, first as a player – skippering Victory to two Grand Final wins over Adelaide – and in more recent times as a two-time title-winning coach.
Muscat knows these kind of games are special and expects the home side to lift themselves with Victory and their legion of fans coming to town.
“[Adelaide are] desperate for a home final. Especially after last year, that first Elimination Final was away, was here [AAMI Park],” Muscat said.
“So they’ll be desperate… we’ve acknowledged that they leave a little in the tank for when they play us, they certainly lift.
The games are always exciting. I can’t remember a dull game against them. There’s always action, there’s always the excitement levels.
“Coopers is a wonderful stadium for that. We’ve got a big travelling contingent coming across, both bays sold out.
“It all leads to something exciting. Now it’s up to us to go and entertain them and have a real go at each other and play a good game of football.”
Asked how important finishing in that top-two is, considering Victory also have ACL fixtures to contend with, Muscat said: "With our schedule, would the weekend off be good? I'm not going to deny that.
“Naturally we want to finish as high as we can. But the reality is there is something more important than that and that’s performances.”
Victory’s hopes of a big performance have certainly been boosted with the return of three key players for the trip to South Australia.
Skipper Carl Valeri – who will retire at the end of the season – returns, while midfielder Terry Antonis is back from a knee problem and keeper Lawrence Thomas is also available again.
“It’s huge without doubt, but it’s always important,” Muscat said of having close to a full-strength squad.
One, everybody’s healthy, and two, the competition for places certainly hots up.
“The standard of training goes up the more bodies you have out there. So yeah, it’s great. Hopefully, from our perspective, everybody stays fit.”
Victory and the Reds have played twice this season, managing one win apiece, including a 2-0 triumph for Adelaide at Coopers back in January.