A PRACTICE match in Bendigo against FC Bendigo is far from the bright lights of Europe.
However, for Melbourne City coach John van’t Schip, Tuesday night’s game against FC Bendigo at Epsom is just as important as any game his squad plays this pre-season.
The new-look Melbourne City squad performed strongly on its recent European tour and is coming off a trip to central Australia.
FC Bendigo doesn’t have the quality or depth of some of City’s other pre-season matches, but that matters little to van’t Schip.
“Every game is important to us,’’ van’t Schip said.
“We want to make sure what we are doing in training is working in games. We’re working hard and there’s still a lot of work to do be done before the season starts.”
Star signing Robert Koren will miss the FC Bendigo game, but former English Premier League forward Damien Duff will play.
High-profile Australian players David Williams and Patrick Kisnorbo will also take to the pitch.
“Robbie Koren has just been back to Europe to bring his family back to Australia,’’ van’t Schip said.
“He only just got back to Australia, so he needs rest. The rest of the squad will be coming to Bendigo.”
The FC Bendigo clash will give some of Melbourne City’s young players a chance to impress van’t Schip.
“This game will help show us if the younger players have improved,’’ he said.
“There is an opportunity there for them to prove themselves and see if they’re close to making the line-up (for the start of the A-League season).”
Melbourne City plays Sydney FC in the A-League season opener on October 11 in Sydney.
This will be van’t Schip’s second trip to Bendigo having been here with the Melbourne Heart four years ago.
“The club wants to play games in regional areas and it’s important for us to come to Bendigo,’’ he said.
“We are looking forward to the game.”
Tuesday night’s game at Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve starts at 6.30pm.
Gates open at 5pm. Ticket prices: adults $10, children under-18 and concession $5. Children under-5 free.
Meanwhile, Ash Hemming won the Bendigo Advertiser’s toss the coin competition.
With thanks to FC Bendigo, Hemming wins a double pass to the match and he will toss the coin before the game.