City coach’s plan to blunt Victory in Melbourne Derby

Coach John van ‘t Schip wants Melbourne City to attack quicker and more directly, while he has urged his side to starve Victory of the ball in Saturday’s highly anticipated derby.

City were the Hyundai A-League’s leading scorers last season with Bruno Fornaroli, Harry Novillo and Aaron Mooy leading the way but despite having a stronger squad this term their scoring rate has dropped.

In 2015/16, City scored an average of 2.24 goals per game over 29 matches, while through 10 rounds in 2016/17, Van ‘t Schip’s men have managed 1.6 goals per game.

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Part of that comes down to how opposition sides have tried to stifle the likes of Fornaroli and Fernando Brandan this campaign, and City’s coach believes his team must get better at exploiting counterattack opportunities.

“With space in transition you can score goals and we’re looking for those moments as well,” Van ‘t Schip said at his press conference on Friday. 

“So if we win the ball back in our own half and we can go direct forward, we will certainly try to do that because I think that’s where – in that first moment – there’s more space and the opponent is less organised. 

“If they are organised and they’re playing very defensive, it’s up to us to find a way to get through.”

Brandan’s goal last week in City’s 1-1 draw away to Sydney FC was a perfect example of what Van ‘t Schip wants.

Fernando Brandan

Receiving the ball in his own half, Brandan turned quickly and passed directly forward to fellow Argentine Nicolas Colazo and then burst forward to receive the return pass before firing a shot into the top corner from just outside the box.

Although Van ‘t Schip believes City could move the ball faster, he isn’t interested in surrendering possession.

City will host local rivals Victory on Saturday night at AAMI Park in the third Melbourne derby of the season in all competitions and the Big V will enter the match in impressive form.

Victory haven’t lost in four matches, including their 3-0 win over Western Sydney Wanderers, and have the two players with the most score involvements (goals and assists) this season in Marco Rojas and Besart Berisha (10 each).

Van ‘t Schip reckons the key to stopping Rojas and Berisha is to starve them of the ball just as City did in Round 2 when they won 4-1 at Etihad Stadium.

Melbourne Victory stars Marco Rojas and Besart Berisha.

“If we do things that we have to do and they have to run more behind us and think more about us, it means that Rojas and Berisha can’t do too much what they want to do,” the Dutchman said. 

“If they have the ball, they can do that, so we have to make sure that we have the ball a lot, that when we don’t have the ball that we’re well organised in transition because they’re dangerous in transition. 

“We’ve seen that the last game as well against Western Sydney. They go forward and in those moments they’re dangerous and they score goals.”

City have already defeated Victory in the Hyundai A-League and Westfield FFA Cup this season and could equal their best unbeaten Melbourne derby run (5 games) on Saturday.