Melbourne City squad reaping rewards of AFC Champions League experience

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Melbourne City head coach Patrick Kisnorbo believes his squad is benefitting from the opportunity to bond during their time in Thailand.

City have already played two of their six AFC Champions League fixtures, securing four points and sitting on top of Group G.

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Ahead of their third match of the group stage, against second-tier Korean side Jeonnam Dragons, Kisnorbo offered an optimistic perspective on how the continental experience was affecting his squad.

“We are lucky that we have a group of players that get along well and respect each other,” he said.

“They are friends off the pitch.

“Being together a lot means we get to bond.”

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Kisnorbo believes that his side has adapted well to the challenging circumstances, and they are even leaning on some of their hub-life experiences during recent A-League Men seasons.

“It is the world we are living in at the moment,” he said.

“We have experienced something like this before back at home.

“We know why we are here: to do our best and to do a job”.

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Kisnorbo is clearly satisfied with how his side have managed the transition to continental football and their new surroundings.

His positivity is unsurprising considering City’s strong start to the group stage.

A particularly pleasing aspect from a City perspective would be the contributions of several younger or less-sighted squad members in the first two games.

The likes of Stefan Colakovski, Tsubasa Endoh and Jordi Valadon have all been given opportunities to make their mark, and each has impressed in their own way.

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Established squad member Andrew Nabbout highlighted the contributions of these fringe players as another benefit from the Champions League experience.

“The young boys have played really well,” he said.

“It gives us the confidence that we have the depth to rotate the squad throughout the tournament.”

Nabbout also highlighted the advantage of squad bonding as a result of the circumstances.

“The fact that we get to spend so much time together over the next few weeks helps us build confidence in each other as well as the team morale,” he said.

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The intensive nature of the group stage means City are tasked with playing six games in just over two weeks.

With only the side finishing top of their group guaranteed to progress to the knockout phase of the competition, each game takes on a heightened significance.

City will play Jeonnam Dragons twice in the space of a few days.

Kisnorbo though refused to be drawn into suggestions that the next two games would be decisive when it comes to City’s prospects of qualifying through the group.

“We need to take things one game at a time,” he said.

“Every game is a big game.”

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Whilst an overloaded fixture list brings plenty of physical challenges for a team, City are hoping that the long-term team-building benefits will outweigh any drawbacks.

City’s notoriously high fitness levels should hold them in good stead though as they build towards their season finale, both at home and abroad.

Feature Image Credit: Melbourne City FC

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Oscar Rutherford
Sports tragic studying Law/Arts at Monash University. Second-best paid Oscar working in football who has been to China.

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