Muscat demands his Victory lifts before playoffs
FOR a Melbourne Victory team that's been in a holding pattern for a month, Kevin Muscat does not have to scour far for motivation in the last A-League round.
If a looming sudden-death finals campaign isn't enough, Muscat conceded that his side's remaining uneasy about their 3-0 home loss to Wellington a fortnight ago.
Victory hosts Central Coast Mariners on Friday night at AAMI Park in their final match before a home semi-final at the same venue - unless they draw Melbourne City.
"This is the last opportunity before it gets to sudden death,'' Muscat said.
"If we really looked ourselves in the mirror after our last home performance, we really owe our members and fans at least a performance tomorrow night because the last one was nowhere near good enough.''
Victory has failed to score in three consecutive games for the first time during Muscat's tenure, but Besart Berisha will be hungry to score with the golden boot race still wide open.
The Kosovo international is equal with Jamie Maclaren on 18 goals, though the Brisbane striker will be full of confidence after a superb finish in Wednesday's Champions League win over Japanese side Kashima Antlers.
Melbourne City's Bruno Fornaroli is one behind, while Sydney FC striker Bobo (15) is bound to get an abundance of chances against struggling Newcastle Jets and is also on penalty duties.
"There was a number of positives to come from last week. I would've liked three goals but it wasn't the case and I'm sure when they come I hope they'll come with a flurry,'' Muscat said.
"For 50 minutes away to western Sydney, who scored three goals in their last three games and we completely dominated them and created a number of chances.
"We come away from games and analyse stats and analyse performance based on stats.
"Last week we had a number of chances based on the way we played and I was more than convinced at halftime that goal would come in the second half.
"(After the red card) we showed a lot of grit and determination and care not to concede and defend.
"Over a period of time performances are what count. That's what's going to reward you with results.''
Defenders Jason Geria and Alan Baro return from suspension, but Daniel Georgievski is banned after his red card with Leigh Broxham to return to left-back, where he spent much of the first half of the season.
THE GOLDEN BOOT RACE
18 Besart Berisha (Victory)
18 Jamie Maclaren (Brisbane)
17 Bruno Fornaroli (City)
15 Bobo (Sydney FC)
14 Brendon Santalab (Wanderers)