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Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat believes an Alessandro Del Piero-led Sydney FC pose a much greater attacking threat than suggested by their recent A-League results.
The Sky Blues have failed to score in their past three matches but Muscat isn’t underestimating their fierce rivals at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
Italian superstar skipper Del Piero comes back into the starting side after recovering from a calf injury suffered in round two to give his side a much-needed boost.
“I’ve had a good look at them, last week they played well,” Muscat said.
“Del Piero is quality and he can hurt you and he has got a lot of pace around him.
“The team seems to lift when he plays so we’ll try and control the game early on and hopefully maintain it for longer periods this week.”
Sydney FC coach Frank Farina is under pressure after the poor start to the season but Muscat, who played under him with the Socceroos, said the criticism would be like “water off a duck’s back”.
He said he wasn’t expecting an emotional reaction from Sydney players.
“If you start having to rely on motivation and emotion to get you up for a football game then you’re probably in the wrong industry,” Muscat said.
While the home side is desperate for a win in the “Big Blue”, Victory are aiming to keep their unbeaten record intact in their second match under Muscat, who was elevated to senior coach following Ange Postecoglou’s appointment to the national job.
Muscat wouldn’t reveal whether Connor Pain or Andrew Nabbout would come in for winger Kosta Barbarouses, who will miss the game with his New Zealand national duties.
Midfielder Mitch Nichols is expected to take his place in the side despite copping a knock behind the knee last week.
Making his A-League debut, Nabbout scored two goals when he came off the bench in the corresponding match last season to give his team a memorable 3-2 win.
“If he tells me he’s going to score two when he comes on I’ll keep it in mind,” Muscat said.
“He’s been waiting patiently and so has Connor.
“An opportunity has arisen for one of them and it’s now up to them to take it.”