Toivonen set for derby comeback

Swedish striker Ola Toivonen is in contention to return for Melbourne Victory when they face Melbourne City in Saturday's derby.

Toivonen, who has scored 10 goals in his debut A-League campaign with Kevin Muscat's team, has been out for the past three weeks after taking a knock in training.

Muscat said the 64-cap Sweden international had returned to training on his own ahead of the meeting with Melbourne City.

"He's made good progress from last week," added the coach. "The view is for him to train with the team at the end of the week.

"He might wake up with pain one day and we'll have to alter the plan, but at this stage in time there's a decent chance he'll play."

Muscat, who has won two championships with Victory including the 2014-15 double, will take charge of the club for the 200th time on Saturday.

And he says at this stage of his career, winning is not enough – he wants to win in a certain way.

"I want to be known as a proactive coach," he added. "A manager that wants to attack, that's trying to win a game, not as a manager that's trying not to lose and might win.

Victory have only taken one point from their last two games, and have fallen nine points behind leaders Perth Glory.

But they are looking healthier at the moment, after Raul Baena returned from a hamstring problem and Georg Niedermeier made his first start since November in last weekend's 1-1 draw against Wellington.

Japanese superstar Keisuke Honda, who has been on the bench for the past two matches, will be in contention to start at Marvel Stadium against City.

The Victory are 21/20 to win their game against City, who are 5/2, with the draw 12/5.

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Muscat hails ‘outstanding’ Kamsoba

Coach Kevin Muscat praised youngster Elvis Kamsoba after Melbourne Victory came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw against Wellington Phoenix.

The defending champions fell behind to Roy Krishna's 12th goal of the season, with Japanese marquee Keisuke Honda netting the equaliser from the penalty spot.

Victory's chances of catching Perth Glory in the battle for the Premiers' Plate took a hit when the Phoenix held them for the third time this season.

Kamsoba, who was a part-timer in the NPL before joining Muscat's side last month, was impressive at Eden Park.

The coach said he was hugely impressed with the way the 22-year-old had made the adjustment from the NPL.

"He did surprise the entire staff with his actual conditioning, his stamina," said Muscat.

"We've had players previously come out of the NPL, we've done it frequently, and normally it takes them a good six months to get up to speed in terms of conditioning, what's required.

"Within a month, six weeks, we thought heis progress has been that rapid; he'll keep working and he'll become a bigger threat.

"He was outstanding – I think everybody here appreciated he was the most exciting player on the pitch."

Victory were pleased with their display, particularly with seven players unavailable for the game including Corey Brown who fell sick overnight.

Anthony Lesiotis came in for his first start, Raul Baena was able to get through a full 90 minutes and both Honda and Georg Niedermeier got through some game time following their injuries.

Swedish striker Ola Toivonen, who remained on the sidelines with a thigh injury, could return for next weekend's derby against Melbourne City.

Melbourne Victory are 21/20 to win their next game against Melbourne City, who are 12/5 with the draw 5/2.

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Muscat unhappy with spot-kick

Coaches Tony Popovic and Kevin Muscat were at odds over the penalty that helped Perth Glory beat Melbourne Victory 2-1 in the meeting of the A-League's top two sides.

Perth went ahead when they were awarded a penalty, as Neil Kilkenny's pass into the penalty area struck Corey Brown on the hand.

Brown was close to Kilkenny and didn't move his arm or hand, but referee Jarred Gillett pointed to the spot and a VAR referral upheld the decision.

Kilkenny took the spot-kick himself and beat keeper Lawrence Thomas, with the league leaders doubling their advantage eight minutes later through Diego Castro's volley.

Muscat said he'd spoken to Gillett after the game and been told full-back Brown had moved his hand towards the ball.

"Clearly Corey's only a metre away and I've watched the replay – Corey hasn't moved his hand," said the Victory coach. "So what it does do now is any time any ball hits someone in the hand in the box, every team's gonna expect a penalty.

"And that gave them a little bit of momentum and it was a goal that could have been avoided from our perspective."

Popovic, whose team have now opened up a seven-point gap at the top of the table over Victory, said he felt the decision was correct.

"I haven't seen the replay, but I did see it on screen and look, I'm not surprised he gave it," he said. "Once he gave it, I didn't expect it to be overturned, so that was it."

With nine rounds left Perth are in prime position to win their first major trophy since the NSL championship in 2004.

Popovic said it was premature to regard the win as decisive in the battle for the Premiers' Plate, despite it being the Glory's second of the campaign away to Muscat's side.

The Glory are 15/8 to win the Grand Final, with the Victory available at 9/4.

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Donachie returns to Victory

Coach Kevin Muscat says he's signed a "class act" for Melbourne Victory, after securing the return of James Donachie.

The deal to bring back the 25-year-old from a stint in South Korea with Jeonnam Dragons was completed on the final day of the transfer window.

Donachie has received international clearance and may be included in Muscat's squad to take on Central Coast on Saturday.

The Victory coach said he'd kept in touch with the defender when it became clear Jeonnam might release him following their relegation.

"The opportunity arose maybe a week, 10 days ago. It happened very quickly," added Muscat. "He's a class act both on and off the park and I'm sure our fans are as excited as I am to welcome him back.

"He'll add to our defensive stocks and complement the players we've brought in across our back four. It's fantastic to have him at our disposal again."

Donachie will fill the spot left by central defender Nick Ansell, who has moved in the opposite direction on a free transfer after 94 appearances for Victory.

Muscat, who said the deals were not linked, added: "Nick has performed really well this year when he was fit and playing. For him to go across there and get a lengthy contract, financially he's in a far better position, (it's the) best possible outcome for everybody."

Donachie, who has signed until the end of the season, played 47 times for Victory in his first stint and helped the club win the championship last season.

Victory are 4/7 to win their next game against Central Coast, who are 19/4, with the draw 16/5.

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Victory duo poised to return

Melbourne Victory are hopeful two key players will return for what could be the biggest game of their season next week.

Kevin Muscat's side are second in the A-League, four points behind Perth Glory, and will host the leaders on Sunday week.

They look likely to get both German central defender Georg Niedermeier and marquee Keisuke Honda back for that clash.

The pair aren't ready to step back in for Saturday's trip to bottom side Central Coast.

Japanese playmaker Honda, who has been out since injuring his hamstring ahead of last month's derby against Melbourne City, is expected to return to full training in the next few days.

Honda was able to take part in short sprints while at training this week.

Victory have only lost one of their eight games without the 32-year-old, who had started the season on fire with five goals and three assists.

Niedermeier is almost over an ankle problem, while Jai Ingham has been able to return to full training and is available for selection again.

Veteran Leigh Broxham said of the German and Honda: "They're going OK; they're just being mindful of coming back a few times and having to start their recovery again.

"They'll take their time a little bit this time … they'll be close for next week."

James Donachie is on the point of completing a deal to return to the club after a six-month stint in Korea with Jeonnam Dragons.

And with Donachie and Niedermeier coming into contention it could mean the end of Broxham's stint alongside Thomas Deng in the heart of the defence.

"People don't view it as my spot; I'm holding the fort temporarily aren't I?" said Broxham. "It doesn't mean I'm going to give up the position for someone else, I want to play and earn a living."

Melbourne Victory are 9/4 to win the Grand Final.

Victory are 4/7 to win their first game of the season against Central Coast, who are 9/2 with the draw 3/1.

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Muscat hails Toivonen

Coach Kevin Muscat was full of praise for Swedish striker Ola Toivonen after Melbourne Victory's 2-1 win over Sydney FC at AAMI Park.

A first-half free-kick from Toivonen put Victory on their way and the forward helped set up their second goal after the break for James Troisi.

Toivonen has begun his Victory career with 10 goals in his first 13 games, helping the defending champions challenge Perth Glory for top spot. They are now second in the table, above Sydney FC, having lost just one of their last 14 matches.

Muscat's side have done well to close the gap on the Glory, bearing in mind they have been without injured marquee Keisuke Honda for the past month.

The coach said Toivonen had made an "outstanding" contribution even though he had been forced to cope with some physical treatment.

His curling free-kick gave Sky Blues keeper Andrew Redmayne no chance after Troisi had been fouled just outside the area.

"His quality really stood out again tonight," said Muscat of the former PSV Eindhoven star. "If (Lionel) Messi scores a free-kick like that this weekend the world would be raving about it."

Toivonen also had a hand in Victory's second goal, nine minutes after the break, his pass releasing Spanish midfielder Raul Baena whose cut-back was finished off by Troisi.

Muscat added: "I'll watch a lot of football this weekend, the majority of it international, and I don't think I'll see a bit of brilliance like that for (Toivonen) to bring that ball down like he did."

Victory's Carl Valeri said it had been important the team made a good start, as they knew Sydney FC would come out fighting.

"I think we showed a lot of character towards the end there, stuck together," he said. "I thought we gave away a few too many chances but we still held on and it shows our mentality of winning games."

Melbourne Victory are 9/4 to win the Grand Final and 4/7 to win their next game against Central Coast, who are 9/2 with the draw 3/1.

Donachie on verge of Victory return

James Donachie is heading back to Melbourne Victory, just months after leaving.

The defender helped Kevin Muscat's club win the championship last season but then headed to South Korea to sign for Jeonnam Dragons.

The 25-year-old made 10 starts in the K-League for Jeonnam, but the club finished bottom of the league last season to be relegated to K-League 2.

He has been training with Victory and could be signed in time for next week's trip to Central Coast Mariners.

His arrival will come with Muscat preparing to sign off on a deal taking another defender, Nick Ansell, to Jeonnam. The club say the two deals are unrelated.

Ansell has made five starts this season, in what is his second spell with the club.

He played 71 games the first time around, returning for the start of the campaign after a stint in Portugal with Tondela.

Meanwhile, Muscat has admitted a return date for Japanese star Keisuke Honda remains unclear.

The marquee player has been out for the past month with a hamstring injury.

Though he was originally slated for a four-week absence Muscat says he needs to clear some hurdles in his recovery.

"He is travelling really well, he is going really well, as good as could be expected," said the coach.

"When you get to this point of his rehab, he is out and running, he is almost out of the hands of the physios because they've got to pass a number of tests for us to feel comfortable that he can take the next step."

Victory failed to close the gap on leaders Perth Glory in midweek when they were held to a 3-3 draw at home by Wellington Phoenix.

Melbourne Victory are 11/4 to win the Grand Final.

Victory are 13/10 to win their next game against Sydney FC, who are 2/1 with the draw 5/2.

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Muscat thumbs-up for ‘relentless’ Victory

Coach Kevin Muscat says Melbourne Victory gave him the response he was looking for in the second half, as they came back to earn a 3-3 draw against Wellington Phoenix.

The defending champions trailed 3-1 after less than half an hour against the resurgent New Zealanders.

But they reduced the gap through James Troisi and secured a point when Kosta Barbarouses struck against his former club with two minutes left.

Muscat, who had seen his team grab an early lead when Ola Toivonen netted, wants Victory to use their second-half display as a benchmark for the rest of the season.

The draw means they trail leaders Perth Glory by three points.

Muscat said the way his team had played after the break was how he wanted them to continue now, with the Big Blue clash coming up on Saturday against last season's premiers Sydney FC.

"Considering how we came in at half time, it was an enormous effort how we played some really good football and earned a very good result," said the coach.

"We were relentless in asking questions and putting Wellington under pressure in that second half, we made some tactical changes that I thought really opened the game up for us, so on the night very pleased with the football we played."

Muscat was pleased that, after Barbarouses levelled, Victory were the team driving forward in search of a last-gasp winner.

"In the end there was only going to be one winner. We were pushing forward to score that last goal," he said.

Melbourne Victory are 11/4 to win the Grand Final. The Victory are 5/2 to win the minor premiership.

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Muscat hails Victory’s fitness

Kevin Muscat reckons Melbourne Victory's physical conditioning was a key factor as they stormed to a 5-0 win away to Brisbane Roar.

The defending champions inflicted a record defeat on the Roar at Suncorp Stadium, running away with the game in the second half when they scored four times.

Coach Muscat felt the way they had performed was in large part down to their fitness.

It was their sixth game in 25 days, a spell that has yielded three wins and two draws to keep them on the heels of A-League leaders Perth Glory.

"In the second half, I thought the belief in our physical conditioning was evident, really evident," said Muscat. "It gave us the platform to go on and win the game comfortably.

"The performance was fairly good and really pleasing, but the most pleasing thing was the physical condition that the players run the game out. It was our fourth game in 11 days and a lot of those players out there have played the majority of those games."

The visitors had led through Ola Toivonen's header going into the break with keeper Lawrence Thomas producing some excellent saves to preserve the clean sheet.

Muscat said he was aware that the Roar were likely to lift for a time after they went behind, adding: "They created a few chances in that period and Lawrence for that moment stood up and made a couple of really good saves and I thought Thomas Deng and Leigh Broxham were phenomenal."

It was a third win in 11 days for Victory, moving them back to within three points of top spot, and Kosta Barbarouses was the hero of the night with a second-half hat-trick against his former team.

Melbourne Victory are 5/2 to win the Grand Final and 3/4 to win their next game against Wellington Phoenix, who are 10/3 with the draw 11/4.

Second-half show impresses Muscat

Melbourne Victory did well to come back and take a point off in-form Wellington Phoenix, coach Kevin Muscat said after the sides drew 1-1 at AAMI Park.

Victory went back above Perth Glory on goal difference at the top of the A-League, extending their unbeaten sequence to eight matches.

They needed an equaliser from Swedish striker Ola Toivonen to claim a share of the spoils, after David Williams had struck an excellent opener for the visitors.

And Muscat felt his team had been impressive in the second half when taking on a team who were intent on sitting deep.

The coach hopes he could get Japanese star Keisuke Honda back for the trip to Western Sydney on 5th January, though Nick Ansell could be missing as he was forced off against Wellington with a suspected hamstring injury.

Muscat said it had been difficult for the defending champions to play against a Phoenix side who put seven players across the edge of their box and looked to transition quickly.

"From our point, we weren't too happy with the way we dealt with that because it gave them energy, gave them oxygen," he added. "Then in the second half I think it was totally different.

"We were asking a lot more questions, we were finishing off actions, creating and earning opportunities and even at the death there, to get the goal back against a team that sits deep and has a lot of bodies in the back third, to get the goal back and keep pushing on and try get the winner was pleasing."

The coach said Honda and Raul Baena had been close to getting the nod to take on Wellington, and he was optimistic they would be able to play against Western Sydney.

Melbourne Victory are 5/2 to win the Grand Final, while they are 9/4 to win the minor premiership.

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