Melbourne Victory are set to lose captain Mark Milligan to suspension but can at least be assured of getting the very best out of Carl Valeri as the midfielder pushes to make the Socceroos’ AFC Asian Cup squad.
Milligan has been suspended for three matches for elbowing Sydney FC’s Terry Antonis last weekend, meaning the skipper will sit out Saturday’s derby against Melbourne City and a home game with the Newcastle Jets on December 27.
If, as expected, he is one of 23 players called up by Australia coach Ange Postecoglou for the Asian Cup on home soil next month, the 29-year-old is unlikely to be available for A-League selection until February.
The lengthy ban represents a major obstacle for Victory to negotiate as they seek to keep pace with A-League leaders Perth Glory, but Valeri is backing his team-mates to step up and fill the void.
“Obviously missing your captain is always going to be tough,” he said.
“Millsy’s a great leader, a great player. But the thing I’ve said about this team from the start is we’ve got great depth. There are a lot of boys who can fill that position.”
Postecoglou must submit his squad to the Asian Football Confederation no later than December 30, making Saturday’s derby at AAMI Park one of the final opportunities for Valeri to show the national team coach what is capable of.
Asked if he was looking to seize that chance, the 30-year-old was unequivocal.
“Definitely, I always look to play to my best,” he said.
“Mainly for Victory, I think that’s important. Players can’t lose themselves, just focus on the job at hand and that’s the game against Melbourne City. Good things will come if I’m playing well and I’ve done my best, that’s all I can do.”
With Milligan unavailable, Leigh Broxham is likely to move from centre-back to a more familiar midfield role against City, the stalwart utility player drawing high praise from Valeri.
“Players like Broxie should be in every team.
“I’d always have him if I was a coach because he can play anywhere, he’s a good leader, works hard and never whinges when he’s told to go out left, sit up in the stands or sit on the bench. He’s a fantastic professional.”
City had last weekend off after beating Brisbane Roar 1-0 at home in their most recent outing, with Valeri unsure what effect the break will have on John van ‘t Schip’s inconsistent side.
“I’ve played in teams where weeks off are great and then, weeks off (can) break your rhythm,” he said.
“It’s hard to say. They’re professionals, they’ve planned their training schedule accordingly so they’ll be ready. It’s a special game.”