Hyundai A-League must build on Asian Cup: Muscat

Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat hopes the derby against Melbourne City and the A-League in general will capitalise on the success of the Socceroos’ Asian Cup campaign.

One of the biggest games of the regular season for the two Victorian clubs, the battle for local bragging rights falls just a week after Australia’s historic win over South Korea in Sydney.

And Muscat hopes the domestic competition can benefit from what is surely a significant surge in interest in the sport following the hosting of a major tournament on home soil.

“I think it’s important we reflect on the football that’s been played the last month and it’s a great opportunity for us to build on that momentum,” he said.

“It’s timed very well isn’t it? The last month, even take the Socceroos out of the equation, it’s unbelievable for our code of football. So it’s important we carry on that momentum, we’ve all got a responsibility to do that, to keep football in this country pushing in the right direction.

“If you’ve not been to a derby but you’ve been out to watch any of the Asian Cup games here in Melbourne, get yourself out there, because they are something special. Tomorrow night will be no different.”

One of the heroes of the Socceroos’ win, Victory skipper Mark Milligan, will be suspended for the derby due to a ban dating back to the 3-3 draw with Sydney FC in December.

“It seems a long time ago,” Muscat said.

“We were aware of the rules beforehand so we’ve got no problems with it.”

Asked if the captain had needed help keeping his feet on the ground after returning to the club as an Asian Cup winner, Muscat said: “No, he’s not that type of character.”

“It was nice to have him back amongst the group yesterday and this morning, the boys welcomed him back and congratulated him.

“He brings a lot to the table, as we can see in the way he performed in the final. It’s unfortunate he’s not available but we’ve got enough to produce a performance and get the right result tomorrow night.”

According to Muscat, French defender Matthieu Delpierre, now training fully, is nearing a return to full fitness, while Connor Pain had a reduced program on Friday due to soreness but will be available for selection this weekend.