Sydney 'not a mental block' for Victory, despite years since win

It's been two years and five A-League meetings since Melbourne Victory last beat Sydney FC - Australia Day 2016, when Kevin Muscat's side won 1-0 courtesy of a Matthew Jurman own goal.

Key striker Besart Berisha does not, however, subscribe to the theory that Graham Arnold's players have a mental stranglehold over their southern rivals, whom they also beat in a penalty shootout in last season's grand final.

But the Kosovan international said Victory needed to be at their absolute peak, physically and mentally, if they were to end this lengthy sequence when the two meet on Friday night at AAMI Park.

"We have to be at 100 per cent. We saw it in the first game we played at home. We lost 1-0, we did play a good game but I don't think it was 100 per cent," he said.

"It's a new game, a new opportunity, we are ready for that. I agree, if you keep losing against Sydney the chances to win something are less, but everything is still possible this season."

Berisha, who showed he was in good touch with a terrific assist and a goal in Victory's 3-0 win over Western Sydney Wanderers last Friday, said after a sluggish and inconsistent start his team was starting to hit its straps as the final third of the campaign loomed.

"It's been a tough season this year, very challenging, not just for me, but for everyone in the club. We are fighting, working hard, we keep knocking on the door up the top," he said.

"We started very slow this season but I think we are coming very strong now to the end of the season, sometimes it's better late than never.

"For everyone it's been, so far, a really tough, challenging season, but you appreciate more if you really come back strong. We show a great mentality and spirit that we don't give up and that's the most important in this game."

Berisha has scored seven goals this season, and while he has signed a contract extension and always has the backing of his coach, Kevin Muscat, there has been some disquiet about his contribution from the Victory faithful.

Muscat always says Berisha is judged by very high standards given his past performances - he is the league's all-time record goal scorer - and fans don't always give him credit for the off-the-ball work he does, his work in creating space for others and drawing defenders.

But Berisha said the criticism did not bother him.

"I always go 100 per cent every game, I am always very focused, try to help the team, the club, sometimes it just doesn't work. But most important for me is that we are picking up points and winning games," he said.

"I was very happy that I could score, make an assist and try to help the team win the game [against Western Sydney]. I sometimes don't get the credit for many things, but it's not important because I believe that Kevin and the boys and the club always give me credit for that, that's the most important thing.

"I would love to get more assists but sometimes it's not possible because I play in a different zone in the pitch."

Berisha was confident Victory's experience and know-how would come to the fore and make them title challengers in the final months of the campaign, especially against Sydney.

"We are getting stronger and stronger towards the end of the season, I feel like whatever comes now - Asian Champions League, A-League - we are really prepared now mentally," he said. "We will really enjoy that, and we are just going to keep the momentum."

This story Sydney 'not a mental block' for Victory, despite years since win first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.