Victory cop double injury blow ahead of derby clash
Melbourne Victory captain Carl Valeri has declared himself a certain starter for Saturday's A-League derby, while two of his international teammates sit out.
Raul Baena and Georg Niedermeier are expected to miss the showcase match with lingering injuries.
Baena, Valeri's direct competitor to anchor the midfield, has struggled with a hamstring complaint for much of the season.
Towering defender Niedermeier has suffered two concussions since his arrival in Melbourne but it's an ankle issue - from Victory's round seven win over Adelaide - that will keep him out.
Valeri said Victory fans shouldn't expect to see the pair at AAMI Park - or possibly their December 28 clash with Wellington.
"I don't think Raul will be playing and Georg might also take a couple more weeks but he's looking really good," he told AAP.
"They're both training really hard. I reckon they'll be back sooner than expected." Victory's skipper, now 34, has defied predictions of his footballing mortality to play a key role in the champions' midfield this season.
After being overlooked to start in the first fortnight of the season, including the round one derby loss, Valeri has started each of the club's six straight wins.
"I love playing derbies. They're fantastic fixtures," he said. "It's a finals atmosphere mid-season. Everything's harder and faster. "Sitting out is part of football but I missed it. Sitting out was hard to watch but I get my chance on Saturday."
Another man likely to be on the sidelines is Bruno Fornaroli, City's biggest name, former captain and chief goalscorer.
The Uruguayan has found himself on the outer after falling foul of coach Warren Joyce's training standards, with no end in sight to his four-week freeze-out. In the 27 editions of the Melbourne derby to date, no man has scored more against Victory than Fornaroli, and Valeri hinted ever so slightly that his half of Melbourne wouldn't miss him on Saturday night.
"Bruno is a fantastic player. He was always tough to play against," he said. "Melbourne City have a string of great players at the moment. I really think they're a good side.
"They're scoring goals from all areas on the pitch. We have to pay attention in every situation whether it's set pieces or outside the box."