Melbourne's midfield maestros ready for opener

Melbourne City FC midfield duo Robi Koren and Erik Paartalu are fit and raring to go ahead of the Club’s Hyundai A-League season opener against Sydney FC on Saturday night.

After reaching the Semi Final of the Westfield FFA Cup over the pre-season, City travel to the Allianz Stadium to face last year’s Grand Finalists as John van’t Schip’s side look to carry their strong on-field performances into the regular season.

Despite being without a host of first-team players due to injury and international duty, City’s marquee man Koren said it provides an opportunity for other members of the squad to step up and perform.

“It’s always different when players are missing. We are missing some big players so hopefully everyone will be fit soon and we can start to play and the coaching staff will have options to pick every player in the squad,” Koren said.

 “It is something we need to cope with as a team. Some players will get a chance and hopefully we can produce something good on Saturday night and come back with some points.”

With nine new signings joining the Club ahead of the new season, Koren said the squad have been working hard during the pre-season and are ready to hit the ground running.

“It is always good to get new players in and it’s more competition for places. Players need time to adapt and we have worked really hard through the pre-season,” he said.

“We are ready to go and every day we know each other more. I am really positive about this season.”

After reaching the Semi Finals of the Hyundai A-League last year, Paartalu said the new additions will help the squad understand what is expected from them this campaign.

“The boys we’ve brought in and the boys we kept from last season - I think we all understand the expectations that are required of us this year both on and off the field, and we’ll be looking to finish stronger than last year,” Paartalu said.

“I think from the first minute in pre-season we’ve been working on what we weren’t good at last year. The boys have come with open minds to hopefully getting better at those things.

“With what’s happened with the club in the last year, everyone gets the feeling that there’s a good expectation upon us as a team and individuals.

“Finishing just in the finals series isn’t good enough for Melbourne City, so we all want to be as high up the table as possible and I think everyone is striving towards that."

Among the fresh faces, new striker Bruno Fornaroli has hit the ground running after netting three goals in his first two competitive matches, with Paartalu earmarking the Uruguayan for a strong debut season.

“He’s a big character among the boys in the dressing room and he’s opening up more and more each day. He’ll be a big player for us this year,” he said.

“He moves well and is great with the ball at his feet and he’ll cause people problems this year. His combination with Robi Koren has been really encouraging in pre-season and that’s something we’ll look forward to during the season.”

With City claiming an important win over Sydney FC in their last visit to Allianz Stadium, Paartalu said there is no reason why the team cannot record an opening day win.

“I don’t see why not,” he said. “If you look at last year we have some good results on the road – particularly against Sydney FC – so there is no reason why we can’t get a result.”