Key Battle: Ritchie de Laet v Keisuke Honda

Saturday night’s Melbourne Derby is just around the corner and two international marquees are set to make their A-League debuts. Ahead of the match, we take a look at what both Ritchie De Laet and Keisuke Honda can offer in the blockbuster Round 1 clash.

There is much anticipation surrounding the debut of Japanese legend Keisuke Honda, but equally as significant will be the debut of City’s own Belgium international Ritchie de Laet.

With Honda’s debut comes great expectation. The former Japanese international has had an illustrious career to date. At club level he has represented a range of different clubs, including both CSKA Moscow and AC Milan.

On the international stage he was crowned 2011 AFC Asian Cup Most Valuable Player in the same year that Japan claimed the AFC Asian Cup title.

In 2010, he was named as Japan’s Footballer of the Year and in 2013, he was awarded with the Asian Golden Ball award.

His personal accolades speak for themselves, which is why there is an expectation for Kevin Muscat’s marquee man to deliver.

There is a distinct difference between the publicity surrounding the two marquees, but behind the scenes Ritchie De Laet has been working as hard as anyone and has already made his presence felt. 

With a total of 47 English Premier League appearances for Manchester United, Norwich City and Leicester City, in addition to two appearances for the Belgium national side, De Laet has proven that he is more than capable of playing football at the highest level and that he’s a worthy marquee.

In 2016, De Laet won a 2016 EPL winners medal from Leicester City on the same day that he won a Championship runner’s-up medal from Middlesbrough following a mid-season loan deal.

But as we all know, history is history, and it’s the now that matters.

De Laet is 29-years-old and coming off the back of two full pre-seasons, the latest at Aston Villa. He’s as fit as a fiddle and raring to go ahead of the season opener.

His pre-season form has been exceptional, demonstrating his versatility, pace and impeccable touch, showing he is a class above his opponents.

During the lead up to Round 1, De Laet has played in a range of positions. Most notably starting at right-back on more than one occasion, the Belgium international has also played through the middle of the park and even featured as a centre-forward in City’s FFA Cup clash against Western Sydney.

In contrast, Honda is a 32-year-old midfielder who is set to feature as an attacking playmaker.

City will look to nullify his impact by closing him down quickly and restricting his ability to move the ball forwards.

There is no doubt that both players have the ability to take the game by the scruff off the neck and they will both be eager to make a lasting first impression.

City take on Melbourne Victory at Marvel Stadium on Saturday 20 October, kick-off 7:50pm.