Victory signing chasing ACL glory

Melbourne Victory defender Giancarlo Gallifuoco has his eyes firmly set on the Asian Champions League after joining the club from the Central Coast Mariners.

GIANCARLO GALLIFUOCO of Melbourne Victory warms up prior to the AFC Champions League match between Shanghai SIPG and Melbourne Victory at Shanghai Stadium in Shanghai, China.
GIANCARLO GALLIFUOCO of Melbourne Victory warms up prior to the AFC Champions League match between Shanghai SIPG and Melbourne Victory at Shanghai Stadium in Shanghai, China. Picture: VCG/Getty Images

New Melbourne Victory signing Giancarlo Gallifuoco says the lure of playing Asian Champions League football was "pivotal" in his decision to return to the club.

Danish midfielder Jakob Poulsen was a surprise omission from the ACL squad announced on Wednesday, with Gallifuoco and fellow recent returnee Marco Rojas among the inclusions.

The versatile defender re-joined Victory this week from Central Coast and is available to play in the A-League derby against Melbourne City at AAMI Park on Friday night.

He firmly believes ninth-placed Victory can still gatecrash the top six and is also eyeing continental success when the ACL group stage begins next week.

"That was pivotal for me," Gallifuoco said.

"Last time I was here, I was able to feature and it was a life-changer for me.

"I thought it was an amazing competition and when this opportunity was brought up to me, that was probably the most important factor.

"I'm hoping to feature and hoping to play as many minutes in that competition as possible."

Victory defeated Bali United and Japan's Kashima Antlers in ACL qualifying play-offs and will open the group stage against Thailand's Chiangrai United at AAMI Park on Tuesday night.

But first the struggling A-League club must seek to turn around its fortunes on the domestic front in the third derby clash of the season against second-placed City.

Victory won the previous encounter 2-1 courtesy of an Ola Toivonen brace, but have since sacked coach Marco Kurz and now sit five points outside the top six under Carlos Salvachua, who is still searching for his first win in charge.

"I believe the squad that we have can definitely make a finals push," Gallifuoco said.

"I understand that in the first half of the season we didn't perform as good as we should've.

"But I'm here to help and do whatever I can do to get the points that this team and these players deserve."

Meanwhile, Melbourne City are aiming to maintain their top-two status and heap more pressure on their cross-town rivals.

New Spanish acquisition Markel Susaeta featured in many Basque derbies for Athletic Bilbao against Real Sociedad and is looking forward to using the Melbourne derby stage to make himself a hero for his new club.

"Derbies are always special for everybody, it doesn't matter where," Susaeta said.

"Every player wants to win the derby and we know that if we want to be up in the rankings we have to win."


AAP