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Victory aim to spoil Western Utd’s party

Melbourne Victory coach Tony Popovic is keen to give his club’s fans a memorable late Christmas gift, but it means he will be the Grinch for Western United.

Western are on a club-record four-match winning run that has consisted of four consecutive 1-0 victories.

Their only blemish this season came in round one when they suffered a 1-0 loss to Victory.

Popovic’s team loom as one of the main title contenders this season, and they will be aiming to follow up last week’s 2-2 draw against defending champions Melbourne City with a win over Western.

But he knows it will be a tricky task against an outfit that has conceded just once this season.

“We want to give everyone a Christmas gift and three points,” Popovic said.

“When they (Western) take the lead, they’ve shown the last four matches they can hold onto a lead very well, and they’re probably growing in confidence in terms of defending a lead.

“They have players that can hurt you in transition and on the counter attack while they’re in front.

“Credit to them, they’re doing well, but I believe we’re doing well also and we’re growing as a team.”

Western have won four of seven derbies against Victory.

But the two wins for Victory have come in the past two clashes, which included a 6-1 romp in round 23 last season.

Western coach John Aloisi doesn’t feel his team need to beat Victory to prove they are a legitimate threat.

“It doesn’t mean that we have to win to get one over Victory,” Aloisi said.

“We want to keep on winning because … winning does become a habit and we want to keep that going.

“These are the games on Boxing Day which you really want to be involved in.

“A player seems to lift even more when you’re playing these sort of games.”

Defender Jason Davidson’s return from injury will be a boost for Victory, while Chris Ikonomidis pulled up well from his first match back since round one.

Victory star Marco Rojas went off injured in the first half against City but he has been back in training and is a chance to play.

Western will again be without their three players who tested positive to COVID-19 last week.

Slovenian midfielder Rene Krhin, who is yet to play this season due to personal reasons, will also miss but Serbian striker Aleksandar Prijovic could return for his first game since round two.

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