Muscat to stick with game plan for derby
MELBOURNE Victory coach Kevin Muscat insists his team will stick to its game plan - in all areas bar one - in the derby against Melbourne City at AAMI Park tonight.
City has moved to third, overtaking its arch rivals in what has been a month of contrasting fortunes for both teams.
The City franchise has played some incredible football over its past three matches, winning all three with a for-and-against of 14-2.
Champions the Victory on the other hand has lost its past three games - including Wednesday night's catch-up game to the eighth-placed Perth.
But Muscat said he would stick to the formula that had worked for his team in the past, except for the front third.
"We'll persist, no doubt. We won't persist in not finishing in the final third - we can't persist with that, we need to get better at that," he said.
"And that's a group effort, because at the moment we're taking the easy option and we're trying to be safe - that's not the make-up of the team.
"I want players to take risks."
Muscat refused to say he was frustrated with his team's performances over its past three games, but admitted he was frustrated with the FFA's scheduling.
"We've got 12 days between games in January - we requested the Perth game be played then," Muscat said. "But for whatever reason in the wisdom of the powers that be, they decided to play it this week."
Victory veteran Archie Thompson has been named to make his return from a knee injury after being sidelined since the FFA Cup quarter-final win over Adelaide United almost three months ago. Matthieu Delpierre and Thomas Deng have also been promoted.
Despite the Victory having won the past three Melbourne derbies, City will go in as favourites after its blistering run of form.
"Maybe if you look at the last period it (City's favourites tag) is (fair), but we all know that the differences are very, very small," City coach John van't Schip said.
"They're the champions - they're the team that won everything last year, and that hasn't disappeared overnight."
The extent of City defender Connor Chapman's injury in last Sunday's 4-0 win over the Jets was revealed this week, the young defender to be sidelined for three months with a medial ligament tear.
His replacement is Northern Ireland international Aaron Hughes, who will make his return from a calf injury.