May 06, 2015 13:34:53 UK
Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat stands by his decision to drop star winger Fahid Ben Khalfallah from the game that clinched the premiership, though he admits it left the Tunisia international “devastated”.
Ben Khalfallah was left out of the final round of the regular season against Central Coast Mariners, to avoid the risk of him picking up another caution.
That would have ruled him out of Friday’s blockbuster semi-final against Melbourne City.
The Mariners clash was significant, in that it secured the Premier’s Plate for Muscat’s side – their first piece of silverware in six years. But it was not crucial to have the first-choice team out, as Victory kicked off knowing that anything bar an eight-goal defeat would be enough to seal top spot.
Fahid was devastated last week, but ultimately he understood and that’s what I’m trying to create.
“When I told Fahid he wasn’t playing in the last round, it was a pretty easy decision, let’s be honest, because we’re not going to risk him,” said Muscat.
“But we’re talking about a person, not a player; he’d given so much to the campaign that he felt he deserved to be out there.”
He added: “Fahid was devastated last week, but ultimately he understood and that’s what I’m trying to create. Every emotion will be removed … no-one’s going to get the nod based on anything but who I think’s the best team on the day.”
Muscat, whose side are 2.25 to win the Grand Final, says in the build-up to the semi-final there is no point trying to downplay the occasion to try to keep the pressure off his players.
He reckons that would only lead to them spending the first part of the match trying to come to terms with what will be the biggest Melbourne derby in A-League history and is likely to be played in front of a capacity crowd.
There are several spots up for grabs in the Victory side, with Archie Thompson and Kosta Barbarouses vying for a spot on the wing and Daniel Georgievski pushing Scott Galloway for the left-back role.
Jason Geria is looking to reclaim the right-back position from veteran Leigh Broxham.
Victory are 1.95 to beat City, who are 3.75 with the draw 3.50.