Victory coach Tony Popovic insists his club has “moved on” from the shameful events of December’s Melbourne derby despite his City counterpart Rado Vidosic believing the fallen giants are “lacking confidence”.
For the first time since the December 17 pitch invasion at AAMI Park that led to the derby being abandoned after 20 minutes, Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City will meet – at the same venue – on Saturday night.
Despite Popovic’s assertion that the Victory has put the incident behind them, it is yet to recover on and off the field.
Sanctioned heavily by Football Australia for the actions of a group of their supporters – some of whom have received life bans – the Victory off-field problems have been mirrored by the slide down the ladder.
Since December’s derby, Popovic’s men have picked up just four points from a possible 24 in a dismal eight-match run that has included six losses.
Not surprisingly, the Victory is last on the ladder.
In contrast, Vidosic’s City are eight points clear at the top of the ladder and have scored 13 goals in their past three matches.
“They’re on top for a reason – they keep winning and all their players are in very good form, but we’re not playing badly,” Victory boss Popovic insisted.
“We’re just not getting results, and we feel we are very close to turning this (around), and there’s no better night or game to do it than in a derby.
“We know we’re good enough to win the game (but) instead of talking about it, we have to show it.
“If we can bring our best performance (on Saturday), we can really show Melbourne City what a good team we are.”
Popovic said he had this week not addressed his playing group about the pitch invasion.
“No one’s ignoring it, (but) I think we’ve all moved on from that,” he said.
“I don’t know if the players are speaking about it internally but … we’re happy to see our fans and members back, and we want that to continue.”
Vidosic won’t allow his star-studded City side to underestimate the Victory.
“At the moment, they are maybe lacking a little bit of confidence, (but) it’s not like they are playing poorly – absolutely not,” Vidosic said.
“They’re going to be a good team (on Saturday). They’re going to come out firing. We need to be ready for the game.”
Vidosic said the City squad had stopped talking about the pitch invasion “two or three days after it happened”.
“It was just ‘forget about it, let’s move on’. Every week we are trying to concentrate on the strengths and weaknesses of our opponents,” he said.
The Victory’s first-choice goalkeeper Paul Izzo is expected to return from a thumb injury that has sidelined him since late December.
“He looks good and we’re very hopeful that we see him out there (on Saturday),” Popovic said.