Western United head coach Mark Rudan has described Melbourne Victory as the league’s “benchmark” on the eve of the first meeting between the two sides.
The league’s newcomers will take on the Victory at Marvel Stadium in what could be the club’s biggest test yet, with a big crowd expected for this derby.
Since the league’s inception Victory have dominated the scene in Victoria and are recognised as one of the most successful clubs both on-and-off the field, having attracted nearly 30,000 members.
Saturday will be the biggest crowd Western United will play in front of so far this season, with Rudan encouraging his players to embrace the occasion.
“We understand Victory has the biggest membership of any in the country, its one I want the players to enjoy,” he said.
“Not many opportunities do players have to play in an atmosphere like that, we want to be them and better if we can as a football club but it’s going to take time for that.
“We certainly understand what the bar is and for me Melbourne Victory is the bar in the A-League.
“The key is not to panic, it’s very early in the season players are still coming to terms with the style and movements and what we are expecting from them.
“These games are important, we want to put our flag on the ground as well, we’re very clear on our demographic and very clear on our identity we know who our club represents and who our fans are and we want them to be proud of us we want them to wear the green and black of WU with pride.
“We have a long way to go but we certainly aspire to be the biggest club in the country.”
Western United had their first taste of a local derby in their loss to Melbourne City last week.
While Rudan identifies the team’s slow start as being a factor to their defeat, he has encouraged the team and supporters to remain patient as the club builds in their first season.
“[The slow start] is something we’ve spoken to the players about something as a coaching staff we’ve all got together and had a chat about our preparation,” he said.
“It’s not just leading into the hour and a half before kick off, it’s the day before, it’s about the week’s preparation and understanding our players.
“We have got different types of players who, through their own careers, certain things work and don’t, so we have to find that medium.
“Because right now everyone’s preparation is a bit different, but we’ll rectify those problems.”
Melbourne Victory meanwhile will line-up without Socceroo Andrew Nabbout, who suffered a hamstring injury in last week’s loss to Brisbane.
While the injury is frustrating for Kurz – who is yet to field his strongest squad this season – the Victory coach is confident in the squad’s depth.
“We have a big and strong squad, we know Andrew [Nabbout] is an important player for us but is not available and now it is our focus to find the right line up for tomorrow and we feel comfortable in our idea for how we can play tomorrow and play in a good way,” he said.
“I think we have a good mix; we are not only young players we have plenty of experience.
“One of the strengths from Western United is the experience from the players and it’s a good side tomorrow, it’s a derby and we want to better than United and beat them.”