Not much has separated Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City so far this season.
After two games against each other so far, the season series is split at one apiece, and with the two clubs’ W-League and Y-League clubs also taking wins off the other in their respective campaigns, Friday night’s contest looms as the ultimate decider of who will claim Melbourne footballing bragging rights 2017-18.
Having missed the season’s first two derbies after sustaining an ankle fracture in the FFA Cup, City’s Uruguayan striker Bruno Fornaroli will be getting his first taste of Victory on Friday, and El Tuna is raring to go.
“I am feeling well,” Fornaroli said on Tuesday.
“I trained today, and am feeling amazing.
“It’s different when you don’t play for the last six months, but I think I am ready.
“I worked hard off the pitch to try not to lose my feet as I came back, and my mind is free now, so I can play.”
The Melbourne Derby is a special fixture in the A-League having produced feelings of ecstasy and heartache for both Victory and City fans alike.
This tribal passion extends to Fornaroli himself, with the star striker admitting that one of the most difficult parts of his rehabilitation came as he prepared to look on as a spectator in this season’s Christmas Derby, a contest that City would lose 1-0.
“One of my hardest moments was when I went to watch the second game at AAMI Park,” he recalled.
“I turned around in the car, I saw too many people – our fans, I said I want to play in this game – maybe if they had put me in my ankle wouldn’t have been sore.”
Fornaroli’s ankle fracture came in an FFA Cup game against NPLNSW side Hakoah Sydney City in August of 2017, and he has spent the six months since intensely rehabbing at City’s Bundoora headquarters in an effort to return Warren Joyce’s side before the finals.
This quest was fulfilled when he made his return in City’s 4-0 defeat to Sydney FC in Round 20, when Fornaroli came on in the 64th minute to a thunderous ovation from the City faithful.
Despite having completed his return to A-League football, Fornaroli confesses that the pain from the fracture still lingers with him.
“I am training every day with pain,” he admitted.
“Sometimes the pain leaves me alone and sometimes it’s harder to me.
“But I have to work every day with my ankle and try to do everything, to train well, to prepare everything for the game.
“When you spend a lot of time injured, when you don’t move the ankle, it’s a little bit normal (to still experience pain).
“After the surgery they say to me that you will feel pain for a long time.
“But I try not to think about this – I can’t think about this.
“When I play I also forget a little bit and my ankle gets better.”
Fornaroli recalls that the ankle break came at a terrible time for him, not only wiping out over half his season but also leaving him incapacitated at a time when his wife was pregnant with the couple’s second child.
The 30-year-old even admits to misleading his wife about the severity of the injury until he had returned to Melbourne.
“When I got to hospital and they said your ankle is broken and you have to have surgery … my wife was pregnant at that time, so at first I thought about my family and tried to call her and say, ‘look nothing happened, I am alright’,” Fornaroli explained.
“I thought about my family first, but inside it was not easy.
“I had a very good preseason, but it’s a part of football, you have to take it, you have to go out and try to do everything to come back better.”