City boss defends side's disciplinary record
FOOTBALL: Coach Michael Valkanis has stoutly defended Melbourne City's disciplinary record, saying his team's intense playing style lends itself to conceding fouls.
City will be without an unprecedented seven players due to suspension for tonight's crucial clash with the Brisbane Roar, with five of them missing after picking up their fifth yellow cards of the season in last week's derby loss to Melbourne Victory.
Valkanis said in copping their one-week bans, "some players learnt a good lesson" but defended captain Bruno Fornaroli, who received his yellow card in the 96th minute.
While saying the foul "probably could have (been) avoided", Valkanis commended the striker's decision to try to win the ball back in a dangerous position.
Saturday night's game is rich with storylines.
Dean Bouzanis is missing with a five-week ban for sledging Besart Berisha, and Valkanis said the week had been a huge "learning curve" for the goalkeeper.
Tim Cahill is out for a week after receiving a red card for berating referee Chris Beath last week, while the other players to miss with five-yellow suspensions are Manny Muscat, Luke Brattan, Fernando Brandan and Osama Malik.
"Has this happened before? I don't think it has," Valkanis said.
"It's a little bit crazy. Going in to the derby game with a few players on the fringe of getting (suspended), you had to make the decision that it was a big game, a derby, and no player wanted to miss out."
There are also question marks over the fitness of Michael Jakobsen, after the central defender reinjured his left calf last week, but Valkanis said "he possibly could be starting".
On the other side of the fence, Brisbane will be battling fatigue after playing in China on Wednesday night.
The Roar stunned Shanghai Shenhua 2-0 to make the Asian Champions League group stage, but only due to arrive in Melbourne late yesterday.
It is Brisbane's first game in Melbourne since the infamous Jade North diving incident earlier this season, but North is out suspended, while the Roar will also be without Dimi Petratos for the first time after the attacking midfielder moved to Korea this week.
In terms of the ladder, tonight's clash is also a crucial game with Brisbane third on 28 points and City fourth on 26.
It is also the last time they play each other this season.
Valkanis was coy on who would replace Fornaroli as his side's striker, saying only: "Our plan is a little bit different this week with how we go about it. But we've got people who will step up and get goals."
But he was more steadfast on questions of his side's discipline, despite it having conceded the most fouls and copped the most yellow cards in the A-League this season.
"I think the way we go about our football, our philosophy, sometimes people can see it a little bit that way with the intensity that we play and our action, reaction and our desire to win the ball back as quick as possible," he said.
"In our philosophy it's about the ball and when we don't have the ball we want it back as quick as possible. The intensity we play at to win it back, sometimes there will be fouls, sometimes we'll win it back, but that's the way we play our game.
"I don't think there's been a problem. There were four or five players on the fringe for the last five or six weeks. It's the way we go about our game. They won't stop pressing with the intensity they have to press at."