A-League
Kevin Muscat: Del Piero lucky not to be facing me
SOCCER

Kevin Muscat: Del Piero lucky not to be facing me

Kevin Muscat knows his team must be wary of Alessandro Del Piero on Friday night but believes they can also take advantage of the aging superstar, who apparently should be thankful the Melbourne Victory coach will not be on the field against Sydney FC.

Club captain and international marquee Del Piero has again been crucial for the Sky Blues in 2013-14, but his lack of mobility also poses Frank Farina's side a problem, with other players required to compensate for the Italian's low work-rate.

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Speaking to the media ahead of the eagerly anticipated A-League elimination final between Victory and Sydney at Etihad Stadium, Muscat acknowledged the unusual challenge of preparing to shackle a playmaker who can still win a game on his own without breaking a sweat. 

"You've got to respect his ability," he said.

"You've certainly got to respect his ability. We've analysed them enough to know that we can take advantage of certain things.

"But at the same time we've got to limit the amount of times he can get on the ball because he's still got immense ability. Apart from the second game here we've handled that quite well," Muscat added, referring to Sydney's 5-0 win on Australia Day when the former Juventus star ran the show.

"He's a very good player that's going to need a lot attention."

The Victory coach, a notorious hard man during a career that included a spell with Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers and 46 appearances for the Socceroos, can't recall every having faced Del Piero as a player.


"Now you're testing me," he said.

"I don't think so, no."

But when asked what his preferred method of negating the World Cup winner would have been, Muscat - last year voted the most violent player in football history by a Spanish website - left us in no doubt.

"I think we know the answer to that," he said, with only a wry smile preventing him from resembling the enforcer who terrorised opponents through British and world football.

That trip down memory lane over, Muscat's attention now turns to more immediate concerns, namely selecting a team capable of beating the Sky Blues.

Centre-back Adrian Leijer has been cleared of a serious foot injury after being forced off against Guangzhou Evergrande on Tuesday but will not recover in time to face Sydney. Tom Rogic is still unavailable but both players could be back for a possible semi-final against Western Sydney or Brisbane Roar.

Pablo Contreras only trained lightly on Thursday but will be fit to play, while Mark Milligan, James Troisi and Kosta Barbarouses could all play for the third time in seven days, with Archie Thompson - available again following a bereavement - likely to come into the starting XI for Connor Pain.

Brazilian playmaker Guilherme Finkler, still in contract negotiations with the club, is likely to replace Jesse Makarounas from the team that started the 2-0 win over Evergrande, while Leigh Broxham and Adama Traore should come in for Rashid Mahazi and Dylan Murnane in central midfield and at left-back respectively.

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