Tony Popovic ready for a first taste of an ‘Original Rivalry’ hostile reception

Getting a rapid education on the importance his new club places on its games with Adelaide United, Melbourne Victory boss Tony Popovic is looking forward to testing his side in front of a hostile Hindmarsh Stadium.

Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United – colloquially christened as the A-League Men’s ‘Original Rivalry’ – has been the forum of some of the competition’s most famous and infamous moments throughout its history.

Be it John Kosmina’s choke on Kevin Muscat, Archie Thompson’s explosion in the 2007 Grand Final, or Kusini Yengi’s Conor McGregor-style strut after putting a freefalling Victory to the sword, the two sides consistently bring the fireworks whenever they cross the border.

Off the field, the contest regularly attracts one of the largest travelling contingents of fans in the league – be it Reds heading to Victoria or Vucktorians heading to South Australia – and it will be no exception this Saturday: over 1000 away tickets sold for what will be the first opportunity for Victory fans to head interstate this year.

For Popovic, it will mark for the first time he gets to experience the feud – in stark contrast to Adelaide coaches Carl Veart and Ross Aloisi, who both played in its first-ever game – and his new colleagues have been quick to reiterate the importance of the fixture over the past week.

On the pitch, the Victory boss expects internationals Roderick Miranda and Francesco Margiotta to push for places in the starting XI in what will also be their first experience of the rivalry, although Chris Ikonomidis is doubtful to feature. Centreback Brendan Hamill will miss at least another week with a groin injury and Rai Marchán is suspended for his red card in the 3-0 loss to Perth Glory.

“We’re looking forward to it. It’s an away game, it’s also, from what I’m learning, it’s a big game for Melbourne Victory and the fans,” Popovic said on Friday.

“I’m delighted to hear our fans can travel for the first time and that they’re going to come in big numbers. We want to put on a performance that is well worth travelling and going through the difficulties to get to Adelaide and support their team. We want to send them home happy and safe with three points.

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“It’s always important to understand the history and also what it means to the club but also the fans. The fans that through the difficulty of travelling are willing to go in big numbers to support us in Adelaide. I understand it, I appreciate it and I know the players and the whole club does.

“That’s while we will embrace the challenge of a tough game – Adelaide is very good at home – and it’s a good game to play for us.”

One figure at AAMI Park that is very familiar with the rivalry — and its history — is utility Leigh Broxham. A second-half substitute in Victory’s 6-0 win in the 2007 Grand Final, the diminutive midfielder has been there and done that when it comes to the fixture and his knowledge has been in demand.

“A couple of new guys asking about it,” he said. “For me, it’s one of the best away games. You play your Melbourne derbies at AAMI, we know how much they mean, but when you’re on a plane and travelling interstate and you’re so far away from home and it’s still such a big game, it’s a big deal.

“I love going there, the atmosphere, playing there between us two, and the supporters that travel there and create a great atmosphere for us. It’s one of my favourite places to go and guys understand that it is a big rivalry and it will be a great challenge to go there and get a good result.”

Currently eighth on the A-League Men table, Adelaide is winless so far in the young 2021-22 campaign but also without defeat: Veart’s side taking three draws from their opening three games on the season thus far.

The Reds will be without Javi López after he picked up a late red card in their stalemate with Brisbane Roar last week and are set to sweat on the health of his fellow Spaniard Isaías, who is nursing a sore hip.

“With Adelaide, they’re always in the game,” said Popovic. “They’re a dangerous side, you can see they’ve got a lot of speed and a lot of power. They’re a very aggressive team at home and they showed against Melbourne City that they’re never out of the game – once they got that first goal the crowd lifted.

“It’s a difficult to place to go; you have to be on song in every part of your game and we feel that it’s a great challenge for us and one we’re really looking forward to as a club. It should be a great match.”

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Header Image Credit: Melbourne Victory

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