A-League: Victory and City set for Melbourne derby showdown

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Star striker Bruno Fornaroli has promised Melbourne Victory’s A-League title bid won’t be derailed by the uncertainty over coach Tony Popovic’s future.

Popovic’s Victory contract expires at the end of the season, and it’s understood the coach and club can’t agree to terms for a new deal.

Popovic has already been linked with a return to Western Sydney Wanderers, and sources have told News Corp Australia that the Victory has already held talks with former Socceroos star and Adelaide United assistant Mark Milligan about coaching the Melbourne club next season.

However, Fornaroli hopes Popovic – who also coached him at Perth Glory – will stay at the Victory.

“He’s one of the reasons why I came here,” the Uruguay-born Socceroos marksman said of Popovic.

“I came to the Victory because I know that ‘Poppa’ could (bring out) the best in me as a football player, and I hope he can continue with us … but it’s something that I can’t really control.”

Fornaroli said he didn’t “want to ask” about Popovic’s future, with the third-placed Victory concentrating on winning the A-League championship.

“As a footballer, we don’t really make those (coaching) decisions,” he said.

“We are really focusing on what we can do this year, and we cannot look at more than this season.”

At 36, Fornaroli – who has already scored 17 goals this season, including a brace in the Victory’s 2-1 weekend win over Perth Glory – is desperate to win a championship for the first time in an A-League career that started in 2015 with Melbourne City.

“This is what I’ve had in my mind from the start of the season, and I still believe we can do it,” he said.

“We have great players, and we have a great squad. This is very important. It’s not only the 11 that start, it’s also the players that come from the bench.

“Everyone’s had the opportunity this year to play, and that’s important.”

The Victory can further their own push for a top-two berth by beating City in Saturday night’s Melbourne derby at AAMI Park.

A win by Popovic’s men over their arch rivals will also damage seventh-placed City’s already fading hopes of playing finals football this season.

City will head into the contest on the back of a 2-1 away loss to the Central Coast Mariners on Tuesday night.

“It’s always special to play a derby, but at the same time, it doesn’t matter if City lost (to the Mariners) or we are coming into the match after a win,” Fornaroli said.

“The derby is a different game, and we need to find a way to win. There are no favourites for me in a derby, so we have to be focused, train well and be ready to try to win the game because that’s what we want.”

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