Melbourne Victory’s preparations for Saturday’s season-defining clash against Perth Glory have had a Keisuke Honda-shaped hole in them.
But Victory skipper Carl Valeri is not fretting over the Japanese star’s absence.
While Victory players enjoyed a rare two-days rest over the international break, Honda has overseen Cambodia’s U-23 team in their round of qualifiers for the 2020 Olympics.
He is not due to arrive back in the country until Friday – the eve of Victory’s pivotal clash against Tony Popovic’s table-topping Glory in Western Australia.
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“If it was anyone else I’d probably be worried,” Valeri said.
“But Keisuke is just a machine. He’s a beast.”
“I know he’ll be away probably working harder than us. From that perspective we’re totally serene and we’re relaxed because we know his professionalism and his work ethic to everything he does is amazing.
“We know he’ll come full prepared for the game against Perth because his hunger to win is amazing and you can really say that in everything he does.”
Kevin Muscat’s side might be 10 points behind Glory with five matches to play but Valeri isn’t ready to admit defeat in the Premiership race yet.
Instead, the club captain believes the reigning champions can muster the same late run that saw Victory charge into the 2017/18 Finals Series and ultimately clinch the championship.
“We’ve probably had a rough patch this last month and we know that. I think our ability to understand what was going wrong and work on things which will make us come a strong at the end of the season,” Valeri said.
“We like to focus on us, not because we want to be arrogant or dismiss other teams because it works for us, what we’ve found to get the best results.
“We’ve seen it over the years, especially come the big end of the season that we can finish strongly.
“We say it but we also know how to do it.
“And we’re going to be looking to do that again against Perth.”