Popovic looking forward to a reunion with Miličić, but keep him off the highlight reel

If his old friend Ante Miličić and Macarthur FC is somehow able to produce another goal from the heavens against his side on Friday evening, Tony Popovic will be the first to tip his hat. The Melbourne Victory coach, however, is hoping the Bulls won’t be able to get into a position to score them in the first place.

Though undefeated in their last three games and sitting third on the A-League Men table with a game in hand over all but one of their top-six rivals, Macarthur’s most notable February moments were arguably a series of spectacular goals produced by Tommy Oar and Craig Noone.

The pair delivered back-to-back goal of the season contenders in a 3-3 draw with Central Coast Mariners on February 10, before Oar proved that his effort wasn’t once in a lifetime with another superb long-range volley against Newcastle Jets in the Bulls’ last hitout.

Indeed, the pair might be feeling a bit miffed that Ben Garuccio’s scorpion goal has served to steal their thunder.

With the Bulls set to head to AAMI Park tomorrow evening, Victory will be the next outfit tasked with attempting to keep themselves out of the Bulls’ end of season highlight reel.

“I think the end result, the shot, you can’t stop that,” Popovic said. “That’s just real quality.

“We would look at how they get the ball into that position that Tommy Oar can finish that way or that Craig Noone can finish in that way. They’ve been wonderful goals. We’ve got to stop them getting into the position to do that.”

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As well as representing the first time that Victory will have faced Macarthur this season, Friday evening’s meeting between the two will also represent the first occasion that Popovic and long-time chum Miličić will have done battle on opposite sides of the dugout.

After serving as part of Melbourne Heart’s first-ever staff, the foundation Bulls coach departed Melbourne to become Popovic’s assistant when he became the Wanderers’ first-ever coach; tasting significant success at Wanderland before joining Ange Postecoglou as assistant coach of the Socceroos at the end of the 2013-14 season.

Prior to moving into coaching, the pair rose through the ranks of the Socceroo factory that was Sydney United in the early 1990s.

“It will be a unique experience for both of us,” said Popovic.

“We’ve worked together and we’re close friends. It will be a good experience for both of us.

“I’m looking forward to seeing him on the sideline. I know what a great football coach and football mind he is firsthand from working with him and knowing him closely off the field. It will be a fantastic challenge and great to see him tomorrow.”

After scheduled games against Brisbane Roar in both Queensland and Victoria were cancelled across the past week, Friday’s game against Macarthur will be the first that Victory’s men have played in 13 days.

Having faced a packed schedule in the weeks prior thanks to their successful FFA Cup campaign, Popovic said the extra training and rest the players were able to experience in that time would prove valuable – Matthew Špiranović and Rai Marchán, although not up for selection against Macarthur, gaining valuable minutes on the track.

Victory will play six league fixtures across the coming month, as well as make a trip to Japan to face powerhouse Vissel Kobe in an Asian Champions League playoff just three days after a Melbourne Derby meeting with Melbourne City.

As part of that trip, the club is facing down the prospect of a near 100km bus trip from Tokyo to Kobe and back in order to stay within the quarantine requirements surrounding the fixture.

“It’s a challenge, a huge challenge for us,” Popovic said of the March madness that awaited his side.

“But it’s an exciting one as well. Things have been out of our hands with the games that have been postponed due to our FFA Cup success, due to COVID, due to unforeseen weather conditions around the country. We can only control what we can.

“The Japan game is a reward for winning the Cup. We will embrace the challenge. Yes, it will be difficult but it’s an exciting month ahead and we want to get as many points as possible to put ourselves in a position where we can challenge sides at the end of the year.”

Enjoying Joey’s coverage of Australian sport? Your support helps keep it possible.
You’re seeing this advert because this is an unpaid, self-published piece.

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Header Image Credit: Melbourne Victory

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