It’s mate against mate and state against state as Head Coach Graham Arnold prepares to face old friend and new foe Kevin Muscat at Allianz Stadium in the Big Blue on Saturday night (kick off 7:30pm).
Arnold rated the clash against Melbourne Victory as a match that transcends the Sydney Derby as two of the Hyundai A-League’s most successful clubs prepare to go head to head for the 35th time in the league.
“It’s a different feel [than the Sydney Derby], maybe because it’s city against city,” Arnold said.
“It is the two biggest clubs against each other, two clubs that have done a lot for the A-League and two of the most successful clubs. It’s a rivalry that’s been born since day one.
“The Wanderers are only new, they’re young, Melbourne Victory are 10 years old.
“We have what we think is the best city in the country with the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House and Melbourne have the same rights of bragging. It’s an interstate rivalry which is great for the code and good for the game.
“He’s a fantastic guy [Muscat], I’ve had a lot to do with him over the years,” he continued.
“We’re good mates but when it comes to game day mateship goes away. We’ll shake hands after the game and get on with our friendship again.
“When it comes to the game side of it we’re both winners, we both want the best for our clubs, the best for our players and both of us will give 100% to try and get the right result on Saturday.”
Arnold said revenge for the Sky Blues 2015 Grand Final defeat was not on his mind as he praised Sydney FC’s attacking qualities while highlighting Besart Berisha as a player who will need to “step up” in the absence of suspended captain Carl Valeri.
“People talk about revenge but there’s no trophy. There’s the beyondblue trophy for tomorrow but not the Championship trophy,” he said.
“If we look at the stats, at the moment we sit second for most shots on goal just behind Melbourne City.
“[We’ve had] one performance that we found hard to play for both teams and it was an outstanding display defensively, we can’t hide from the fact of the other games and the facts show we’re controlling games.
“We’ve had more possession in the opposition half than anyone so we’re a work in progress and we’ll get better and better.
“They lost their real big leader in Mark Milligan at the end of last season and Valeri took over the captaincy,” he continued.
“[But] the ingredient in their team is Berisha, the inspiration he gives to the team and the other players, the fight, the desire, everything runs off him. He’ll have to step up, he’ll want to step up because Valeri is not there.”
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