Besart Berisha is no stranger when it comes to derbies but admits the one on Saturday will be “the most emotional” of his career.
While the fixture between Melbourne Victory and Western United is yet to be christened with a name, there is plenty of intrigue around the first-ever meeting between the two sides.
Adding to the story is the presence of one Besart Berisha, who became a fan-favourite at the Victory – scoring 86 goals and winning two A-League Championships.
The 34-year-old never thought he would ever play against the Victory after moving to Japan in 2018, but says he excited to be back in Australia and part of the league’s biggest games.
“It’s going to be very emotional for me this game, probably the most emotional of my career so far but I have a job to do and the way I go about this game is I want to win every game,” he said.
“I didn’t expect [to play Victory] so early or ever to play them to be honest.
“I love playing in Australia, I’m enjoying every day at Western United, it’s a great challenge for me and I’m doing to try everything to help this club and it starts again this Saturday.”
The forward may be still be unsure as to whether he will celebrate should he score against his former side, but there is no question about his record in big games.
The big occasion seems to bring the best out of Berisha, who has scored ten goals in his last 15 Melbourne derbies – including one in last week’s loss to Melbourne City.
“These games are the ones every football player wants to play and be part of,” he said.
“I always want to be part of these games and want to show how good I am and I want score in these moments.”
Albeit the Melbourne Victory Berisha will face on Saturday will be a very different side to the one he left.
Since his departure Marco Kurz has replaced Kevin Muscat and several of Berisha’s teammates have moved on as well.
It has been an arduous start to the season for the Victory, who have been hit hard with injuries – losing key recruits Tim Hoogland, Robbie Kruse and Andrew Nabbout.
But captain Ola Toivonen sees this as an opportunity for the younger players to prove themselves at the highest level.
“We’re struggling a little bit when it comes to injuries but it’s good for the younger boys,” he said.
“It’s time for them to step up and can’t complain on the game on Saturday.”
Melbourne Victory come into the game following a narrow win against the Brisbane Roar last week with Toivonen identifying the team’s ability to remain compact a key strength and one they will look to continue this weekend.
“I think we came together as a group and really stood for each other for 95 minutes that was the biggest difference compared to the Western Sydney game,” Toivonen said.
“Getting a lot of new players in of course it will take time, we also need to find a level where everyone is most comfortable in and try and keep that level for a couple of weeks.
“[We need to] be compact, if we play the same game as we did in Brisbane, we will be alright.
“It’s an experienced team we’re going to come up against but with experience and age also comes but I think our team is a little faster than the opposition.”