Melbourne Victory star Deng: Honda's return to Japan will be 'crazy'
As Melbourne Victory prepare for their AFC Champions League encounter with Sanfrecce Hiroshima on Tuesday night, a certain star import is preparing for some encounters of his own.
Keisuke Honda will be returning to his homeland for the fixture at Hiroshima Athletic Stadium and the fanfare that comes with his homecoming is expected to be substantial.
The 32-year-old is the only Japanese player to have scored in three FIFA World Cups (2010, 2014, 2018) and finished his international career with an exceptional record of 37 goals in 98 matches.
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Caltex Socceroos defender and Victory star Thomas Deng spoke of the privilege of playing with the superstar midfielder.
"Getting to know him in the last few months, he's a top guy. It's been very exciting having that type of player with the experience that he has," Deng said.
"Going back to Japan is going to be crazy, especially getting through the airport and all that kind of stuff.
"Having him has been amazing, his qualities that he brings and his leadership as well."
Getting a result in Japan will be vital for Victory's hopes of progressing further after they suffered a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Korean outfit Daegu FC on Tuesday.
Daegu forward Cesinha ran riot in that match and Deng admits players of the Brazilian's profile can be tough to handle.
"That's the toughest thing about the Champions League, because we're not really aware about the teams and the players that they have," he said.
"It's not like the A-League but we'll do our research, try to get to know them as much as we can and figure out a game plan."
However, Victory are familiar with one player lining up for Sanfrecce; club legend and all-time Hyundai A-League leading goalscorer Besart Berisha.
The striker has played limited minutes since moving to Japan in June, but is sure to draw plenty of attention from Muscat's men.
"We're looking forward to catching up with Bes again, I'm sure he's looking forward to it as well," Deng said.
"We know how he plays and his strengths, so it'll be good to compete with him."
Deng - who earned a NAB Young Player of the Year nomination for February - heads into the fixture under an injury cloud after pulling up sore against Daegu FC.
And with the side's form intermittent as of late, Muscat will be desperate to see his key defender fit for the crucial clash.
"I should be fine, I'll travel up to Japan and get ready for the game. If I get the green light I'll be ready to play," Deng said.
"It's going to be a tough game. They're a top side and we need to step it up after a disappointing result on Tuesday night.
"We're still excited, we're looking forward to the next game. There's still a lot of football to be played."