His Melbourne Victory side may have failed to taste victory in any of their last six games across all competitions but Head Coach Kevin Muscat, externally at least, isn’t allowing any burden from that run of results show.
Victory last took three points from a contest when they came from behind to defeat the Central Coast Mariners on 2 February thanks to second-half goals from James Troisi and Kosta Barbarouses and an own-goal from the Mariners Ben Kennedy.
Since then, however, the Victory has fallen into somewhat of a form slump – despite the return of Japanese maestro Keisuke Honda from injury.
Two draws in the A-League have been accompanied by two defeats, and the defending A-League champions most recently crashed to back-to-back losses in their opening two games of the Asian Champions League; losing 3-1 to Daegu FC last week and 2-1 to Sanfrecce Hiroshima on Tuesday.
This poor run of form means that Victory, with only six games remaining in the A-League season, now sit ten points adrift of league leaders Perth Glory and four points back of the second-placed Sydney FC.
Though Muscat’s side still retains games against the two table toppers in order to potentially close those gaps, a failure to take three points against Brisbane Roar on Saturday evening would sound an ominous warning ahead of the finals.
On paper the task should be relatively straight forward for Victory.
They are undefeated in their last nine games against Brisbane within the confines of Marvel Stadium and have won five of the last eight meetings between the two. Roar will also enter the contest in ninth place on the A-League table and were defeated 4-1 by Western Sydney Wanderers in their last hit out.
Football matches are, of course, not played on paper, however.
“No, not from a results perspective, not really,” Muscat said when asked if he was feeling the pressure.
“I’m not going to focus and put myself in a position where that’s dictating what I do and all the decisions I make.
“We’ll sit down and analyse everybody and we’ll make a decision.
“The one thing for us at the moment we’ve got to add winning to the end of our performances because the performances have been fairly good.
“Yes, winning is part of performing so at the end of our performance or that last little bit of performance we’ve got to start turning those performances into wins.
“Internally, we’ve got our beliefs and I’ll remain true to those. It wasn’t so long ago that people didn’t have a very different opinion.
“We’re not going to spend a lot of time worrying about it.”
With stoppers Thomas Deng and James Donachie both set to miss the meeting with Roar – Deng thanks to duties with Australia’s U23 side and Donachie through suspension – Victory will likely roll with a centre back pairing of German import Georg Niedermeier and Mr Fixit Leigh Broxham for the visit by the Queenslanders – Muscat himself putting the two through their paces on Gosche’s Paddock on Friday morning.
— Joey Lynch (@joeylynchy) March 15, 2019
Ola Toivonen, who was forced to leave the clash with Sanfrecce early after being waylaid with illness soon after landing in Japan, is nonetheless likely available to play.
“We came straight to AAMI Park from the flight and done some work and some recovery and all of them have slept really well,” Muscat said on the health of his group
“They’ve reported well this morning, trained very light this morning. But everyone’s pulled up reasonably well.”
“At this stage he’s (Toivonen) pulled up ok.
“The night before the game he woke up with a little bit of a fever and was feeling ok but clearly during the game he wasn’t able to contribute as he would have liked.
“To be honest, it’s happened once or twice to him, so the doctors are investigating further because it’s happened once or twice so maybe it’s a little bit more than most things.
“We’ll be thorough and diligent with everything and we’ve still got 36 hours before we have to name a team.
“But as we speak, everybody’s fine.
“Georg will come back into the team after his suspension.
It seems a long time (Since Niedermeier’s suspension), the way the fixtures and split rounds and all those things worked. It seems a long time ago. He should be fresh.”