Michael Zullo looks forward to first Melbourne derby

Michael Zullo in action for one of his old teams, Adelaide United
Michael Zullo in action for one of his old teams, Adelaide United

FORMER Brisbane Roar star Michael Zullo is a good chance of experiencing his first Melbourne derby, with the 27-year-old in line to make his debut for City against the Victory at Etihad Stadium tonight.

Zullo was an unused substitute in his team's 1-all opening-round draw in Sydney after returning from injury but said he was ready to play.

And the versatile left-sided defender could take part further up the field, as City's midfield tries to counter the Victory's championship-winning engine room.

"Michael is a versatile player. We knew when we got him he was not only a player that can play left fullback," City coach John van't Schip said.

"He showed at Brisbane and Utrecht he plays different positions.

"He can play up front as well, so that's a possibility."

Brisbane product Zullo played at the Roar between 2007 and 2010, before spending time at Dutch side Utrecht and Adelaide United.

Now in the Victorian capital, the Socceroos representative said he couldn't wait to play in the first Melbourne derby.

"All three games against Victory are probably the biggest apart from the finals," he said.

"So for us, the focus is on winning because that could be a massive step forward for our season.

"It's a game I really want to be a part of and play in."

Van't Schip said his midfield - featuring the likes of Erik Paartalu, Robert Koren and Aaron Mooy - was capable of matching the Victory's playmakers.

"They play a little bit different in the midfield with (Gui) Finkler and (Oliver) Bozanic, and (Carl) Valeri is the defensive player," van't Schip said.

"Bozanic is more box to box - (former Victory captain) Mark Milligan went forward, but he was more a controlling player.

"So they have made a little change going forward - all the other things are more or less the same."

One thing van't Schip would like to see changed is City's away record to its cross-town rival.

The Victory has lost only once against City at home in the A-League (won four, drawn three), its most recent triumph coming in last season's 3-0 semi-final win.

Star Victory striker Besart Berisha has scored in the past three home derbies against City, netting five times.
"It's not only shutting his (Berisha's) influence down because he gets balls in from certain areas - it's a whole package," van't Schip said.
"We have to be very sharp and aware of what positions he wants to take and where the balls are coming from."

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