Honda desperate to make return
KEISUKE Honda is knocking on the door - literally - to get a start in Melbourne Victory's A-League clash with Wellington Phoenix on Friday night at AAMI Park.
The Japanese superstar was left out of last Saturday's derby draw with lower back tightness but has been desperate to prove his fitness to Victory coach Kevin Muscat.
"He's been in my office every morning this week pleading his case," Muscat said on Thursday.
"The amount of work he's put in this week to make himself available has been a joy to watch. He's better than he was last week but we will weigh everything up and make a decision on Friday."
While Honda remains in doubt Spanish midfielder Raul Baena, who had a hamstring issue, is back in the squad with Muscat unsure whether he will start, while fellow midfielder Terry Antonis has overcome a glute injury scare suffered at training.
The match is a meeting of the A-League's two most in-form teams with champions Victory and surprise packets Phoenix unbeaten in their last seven and four matches respectively.
In their last outing the Kiwi team, who finished second last on the ladder last season, crushed Brisbane Roar 4-1.
"It will be a good test for us and they will come here with a lot of confidence," Muscat said.
"They scored some goals last week so in that front third of the park they've got some serious pace, especially in those transition moments, they are dangerous."
Muscat said that under new coach Mark Rudan Wellington were a completely different prospect from last season.
"There's vast differences - firstly with their formations," Muscat said.
"They play with five at the back and their wing-backs are very aggressive and adventurous and off a solid base they've got some pace in the team to cause teams problems," he said.
After letting the opportunity slip by conceding a 92nd minute equaliser against Melbourne City, Victory can go ahead of Perth on the ladder with a win on Friday night.
However, the Glory can reclaim top spot when they travel to Central Coast Mariners on New Year's Eve.
"It's always nice to go top of the ladder, without a doubt," Muscat said.
"But those things, like the result, are an outcome of all the things that lead to a performance - that's all that concerns me at this point in time and if we perform well we'll see where it takes us."