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A-League Preview: Victory, City to meet in biggest Melbourne derby

It is good enough to the be the grand final as rivals Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City square-off in a blockbuster semi-final.

Victory and City have contested 15 derbies since the latter was introduced to the A-League under the name of Melbourne Heart in 2010-11, but Friday’s mouthwatering showdown at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne is set divide a city like never before.

Kevin Muscat’s men earned the week off as a result of winning the Premier’s Plate after topping the regular-season standings at the end of 27 rounds, while City defied the odds to reach the final four via a 2-0 win at Wellington Phoenix on Sunday.

A sea of blue and red is expected to pack into Etihad Stadium, which is tipped to sell out, but it is business as usual for Victory’s attacking midfielder Gui Finkler.

“It’s a derby game, everyone wants to win,” said Finkler, whose Victory team are bidding to win their third championship and first since 2009.

“We won the premiership. We celebrated for a few hours [but] now we’re really focused on this game.

“We didn’t know who we were going to play against and now we know it’s City. We’ve been preparing all last week and we’re not going to do [anything] different.

“It’s going to be full of Melbourne Victory supporters at Etihad, they’re going to be really loud and push us on to produce a good performance.”

Finkler added: “It’s a special game, but I think we’re going to prepare ourselves like we’re going to play [against] any other team.

“We’re going to focus on what they’ve been doing, the coaching staff are going to have a look and we’re going to prepare ourselves really [well] for this game.

“Soccer is about moments. That’s the moment [to play well], it’s a semi-final, it’s a derby.” 

There is also expected to be a bumper crowd at Allianz Arena, when Sydney FC host Adelaide United on Saturday.

Sydney’s top-two finish granted Graham Arnold and Co. a week off, while United overcame Brisbane Roar 2-1 in an elimination final.

One player relishing the match is Bernie Ibini, who won the 2012-13 A-League championship during his time with Central Coast Mariners.

“It’s going to be very special,” Ibini said. “This is my first semi at home for Sydney and hopefully a big crowd will turn out and it will be very special for me and the team.

“I think I’ll be just taking it as another game, not putting too much pressure on myself.

“We all have the ability to play in these big games so we just have to play our normal game and I’m sure it will work out for us.”

Wed 6 May, 2015
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