Melbourne City FC Head Coach John van’t Schip acknowledged Friday night’s Hyundai A-League clash against Perth Glory will be an entirely different battle when both sides square off at AAMI Park.
With of a host of first team players still absent through injury, a youthful City side stood up to the difficult task of facing an in-form Brisbane Roar outfit last week, walking away with a hard-earned point against the league leaders at Suncorp Stadium.
Buoyed by an encouraging performance away from home, van’t Schip said his team is firmly focused on combating a Perth Glory side with a contrasting style of play.
“I was happy with the result and the first half I think we played a good game there,” he said. “We got out of the press that Brisbane wanted to give to us when they lost the ball and created some good opportunities going forward.
“Second half after the 1-0 we struggled a little bit, but overall I’m happy with that performance but we have to put that behind us now. Perth is a totally different game, they have another approach.
“They are strong with set-pieces but defensively solid and are playing a bit opposite to, for example, what Brisbane are doing, so it is another game."
With key defenders Patrick Kisnorbo and Aaron Hughes still missing through injury, midfielder Jacob Melling is set to deputise in central defence alongside Connor Chapman for the second week running, after an assured display against the Roar last week.
Despite standing at only 174 centimetres in height – which is considerably smaller than the average central defender – van’t Schip believes Melling has the attributes to succeed in the heart of defence and is set to persist with the newly formed partnership against Perth.
“I think Jacob and Connor showed that they did well and Jack [Clisby] did well as a left full-back. I think we continue on that and hope to build on that,” he said. “It’s a different game again and we have to defend with a bit more space behind us and against Brisbane we were forced to play a bit back.”
“It’s another opportunity for them to show that they can do it and Jacob showed he has the quality. He’s not big but he’s strong and can jump high.
“It’s another way of defending, you can’t just step out like in midfield to take a big risk and try to get the ball. Now you have to judge in a different way because if you step out and miss now, it is mostly a very dangerous situation.
“He coped well with doing that, so hopefully he can show it again and take another step.”
City will have learned valuable lessons from its defeat to Perth in the Westfield FFA Cup Semi-Final as Kenny Lowe’s side utilized their considerable physical strength and aerial threat to record a 3-1 win in October.
But van’t Schip said it is not only Perth’s strength from set-pieces which can cause problems in the defensive third.
“They have some individual players that are good. [Diego] Castro can have moments in the game where he can decide things. Marinkovic we know has a good killer pass. Michael Thwaite is playing a different role in the last games from out of the midfield, if he comes into position we know he has a good shot and can come into the box from crosses."
“It’s not only about set-pieces but in general we know that they are strong and they build their performances about a solid structure. Their full-backs like to go forward, they defend but when they have the ball, especially the full-backs [Josh] Risdon and [Marc] Warren like to go forward and assist the attack.
The improving fitness of forwards Harry Novillo and Corey Gameiro is an added bonus for City, with both players lining up alongside in-form striker Bruno Fornaroli for the first time against the Roar last week.
Gameiro performed well in a tight tussle with Brisbane defender Shane Steffanuto on the right wing, while Novillo made an impact on his first A-League start for the season when he fired City into the lead, and van’t Schip is delighted to have the duo approach full match readiness.
“There were parts that was good and they looked dangerous," he said. "They are three different kind of players but the only one that is really 100 percent is Bruno – physically and also mentally."
“Harry and Corey are coming back from long-term injuries – especially Corey (who suffered an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury last year). That’s going to take a few weeks but if you don’t play them then that’s not going to happen.
“We are happy that they are fit and we can make use of them again, but again it’s about watching every game and during the week managing them to try and get them to the level that they can play 90 minutes in the highest possible way."
After two successive home defeats against Newcastle Jets and Western Sydney Wanderers, van’t Schip highlighted the importance of returning to winning ways at AAMI Park.
“We are disappointed about the last home games and we want to set that right, and the only way to do that is to get a win against Perth. Everyone looking at the training in the week understands that and the performance in Brisbane was important.”