Fixture pile-up awaits Victory in pursuit of Perth
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Fixture pile-up awaits Victory in pursuit of Perth

Perth Glory are now seven points clear of their nearest challenger, Melbourne Victory, and the A-League premiers' plate looks theirs to lose.

With Victory and third-placed Sydney facing a fixture pile-up in the Asian Champions League from next month on, Perth's task appears even more straightforward.

But Glory boss Tony Popovic isn't convinced that playing against the best teams in Asia and having to travel to China, South Korea and Japan during the busiest part of the A-League season is the disadvantage it might seem to be.

He is the only Australian coach to have won Asia's premier club competition, leading the Western Sydney Wanderers to a dramatic triumph in Saudi Arabia in 2014, so he is well aware of how teams can, in what might seem counter intuitive, benefit from the travel and closeness such tough matches can bring.

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He has an ally in Victory chief Kevin Muscat, whose defending champions lost 2-1 at home to the league leaders on Sunday evening.

Muscat has experienced the demands of frequent flying to Asia during A-League finals campaigns and shares Popovic's view that there are pros and cons.

Perth Glory's Jason Davidson takes off against Victory on Sunday.

Perth Glory's Jason Davidson takes off against Victory on Sunday.Credit:AAP

Popovic bridled when asked if the ACL commitments handed the premiers' plate to his team: ''We will see. I do recall Victory in their previous campaign did very well in the ACL with a lot of matches.

''It actually helped them finish the season strong. It can work both ways, I have experienced positive and negative from it, it depends a lot on the health of your squad.''

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In fact, Popovic hopes to be in the same boat next season.

''I definitely would be happy to be in the Champions League regardless. If you are in the Champions League you have had a fantastic season and that's your reward," he said.

''I am sure Sydney and Melbourne will embrace it and I hope we can embrace it next year, that's our plan and that's what we hope to do.''

For Muscat, it's just another challenge to be managed as part of the process of success.

''I don't know what Perth are going to keep doing until the end of the season, we will ... stick together, recover well and concentrate on the performance next Friday.

Kevin Muscat: We will . . . stick together.

Kevin Muscat: We will . . . stick together.Credit:AAP

''We are very pleased with the way and the direction we are heading.

''Does the Asian Champions League make it difficult? Who knows. We have prepared for that period from a physical perspective.

''In reality I would rather be in the Champions League than not. It's not a hinderance. If you pointed to the fact that other teams haven't got it, I reckon they would like it.''

Michael Lynch, The Age's expert on soccer, has had extensive experience of high level journalism in the UK and Australia. Michael has covered the Socceroos through Asia, Europe and South America in their past three World Cup campaigns. He has also reported on Grands Prix and top class motor sport from Asia and Europe. He has won several national media awards for both sports and industry journalism.

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