Melbourne City is set to hand a debut to new EPL signing defender Aaron Hughes against Manchester City on Saturday with coach John van’t Schip convinced he’ll provide the boost needed for an A-League title tilt.
Northern Ireland’s most capped outfield player, formerly of Newcastle United Aston Villa, Fulham, QPR and Brighton, is on a one-year deal and is set to partner captain Patrick Kisnorbo in the heart of City's defence.
After Rob Wielaart and Kew Jaliens exited City at the end of last season, City were left short of central defensive options.
Hughes trained with his Aussie teammates on the Gold Coast this week and is set to be a key part of van’ t Schip’s plans for Hyundai A-League Season 11.
“He’s a very experienced player with a record amount of games in the English league. He’s a very professional player still playing for Ireland [at national level] and they’ve done well in their group in the European championships qualifiers,” van 't Schip told reporters on Friday.
“We lost a little bit of experience last year so we needed to get defenders back into the squad and Aaron is the perfect fit for us.”
And concerns about adapting to Australian conditions were brushed off by the Dutch mentor, who is looking at Hughes to lead the way for a club building an eye-catching squad ahead of Season 11.
“We spoke with Damien Duff who spoke very highly about him and looking at him now in the last few days we’re happy and sure he’ll add quality to the team.”
City play Manchester City on Saturday in a friendly at Robina on the Gold Coast.
Melbourne City’s skipper Patrick Kisnorbo joked he only knew of their EPL opponents from playing video games on FIFA.
Van ‘t Schip added a win was the goal on Saturday in front of an almost sold out stadium.
“You always want to go out and win a game. The level in this league is big but we want to give them a good game. As they want to have a good game as Vincent [Kompany] said.
“It’s good to be playing already opponents who can play. The level is growing here and that’s a good sign.
“But also enjoying the game against players the boys only see on TV.”