Soccer: Valeri out and Troisi to return for Victory clash with Phoenix

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Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat will be without captain Carl Valeri for the visit of Wellington Phoenix on Monday night, but will regain the services of creative midfielder James Troisi.
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Valeri, who plays a key role as Victory’s midfield screener and organiser, has hamstring problems that will rule him out, ensuring a shake up in the centre of the park.

Troisi, who has been missing with a broken collarbone sustained in the 1-1 draw with Brisbane in the opening round, will, however, be available although Muscat indicated he may not start.

“Carl’s pulled up sore … one of his hamstrings over the games in succession. He’ll miss out,” Muscat said on Sunday ahead of the now traditional Cup eve match against the Kiwis.

“I thought Rashid (Mahazi) did very well coming into the team on Tuesday night (the controversial FFA Cup semi-final loss to Melbourne City), so he’s in contention.

“James Troisi is available … once again whether he starts, possibly, but unlikely. He’s certainly made himself available, so we’ve got a few options,” the coach added.

Victory have been criticised this season for lacking a cutting edge and being rather more stodgy in attack than in previous years.

Muscat acknowledged that they needed to be sharper in forward areas, but did point out that his side has only not scored once in its four Cup and League games this season so far.

“If that’s going to be the criticism, I don’t think you can just label it down to individuals or one area of the park.

“All of our games, we’ve [only] not scored in one game,” he said.

“We want to be a little bit more aggressive in that front third. It’s an accumulation of things, probably better at retaining possession of the ball, I think we have improved and increased in that area.

“[If you do that] then it gives you more of an opportunity to get into those areas. Different games pose different problems in terms of where you’ve been pressed and teams dropping off, but I think if you look back at this fixture in the past and our games against Wellington I think there’ll be quite a few chances at both ends.”

Wellington coach Ernie Merrick, who spent five successful seasons at Victory before being dumped, needs little motivation for putting one over his former employers.

The Nix were expected to be a strong attacking threat this season having signed a plethora of talented front men – including ex-Victory pair Kosta Barbarouses and Gui Finkler – but have so far been drawing blanks.

In three A-League matches they are both winless and goalless.

Muscat believes the statistics do not reflect the reality as far as Merrick’s men are concerned.

“You can analyse the stats there, they were unlucky last week [when Phoenix lost to a late Sydney goal]. I’m looking forward to the way they want to play and who they have available and the way we’re going to address the game. Tomorrow night will be a good spectacle with a lot of goal-mouth incidents.

“Kosta’s a good player, both him and Gui have shared some great memories at this football club, so I’m sure our members and fans will appreciate it and show them the respect they deserve for their time at Melbourne Victory.”

Muscat was more circumspect when quizzed whether promising teenager Sebastian Pasquali would get a chance in the starting line-up. The youngster has been linked with a move to the Ajax academy in Amsterdam, but Muscat on Sunday kept his cards close to his chest on whether the 16-year-old would figure from the outset against Wellington.

“He does need to be managed. One thing we haven’t done and I certainly won’t do in my team here is compromise a youngster’s development. How long is he going to last because of his conditioning?

“He’s improved [with] the way he’s been managed by the conditioning staff, medical staff, integrating him into first-team football from a couple of days a week to four days week full sessions.

“He’s at a point now he’s completing all the sessions, he’s knocking on the door, you’ve witnessed as much as I have, he’s certainly knocking on the door.”

*Muscat was fined $5000 on Friday by the FFA for the comments he made about referee Shaun Evans after Victory’s exit in the Cup semi-final. The coach was particularly incensed that City’s first goal (in a 2-0 win) was allowed to stand as he believes Tim Cahill was in an offside position and interfering with play when Luke Brattan fired in his long-range drive.

Asked for his reaction on Sunday, Muscat said “I’ll get through tomorrow’s game and then I’ll work out where we go from there.

“It’s disappointing, at some point in time someone has to stand up for what they believe in to protect their own.

“What I said – I accept I could’ve chosen different words, my intentions weren’t to offend or question the integrity of the referee, I just felt I had to stand up for the players because that’s what I believed at the time.

“It’s gone now, I’d rather move on because it’s irrelevant now, but I felt at the time something needed to be said.”

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