ALW Match Preview: Epakis excited by Victory challenge

Glory Head Coach Alex Epakis and his players are relishing the prospect of upsetting the odds against traditional Liberty A-League heavyweights Melbourne Victory in Saturday’s Round 5 clash at Macedonia Park (kick-off at 7pm, tickets available HERE).

The women in purple will be out to maintain their 100% start to the season which has left them sitting at the top of the table, while Victory are currently running fifth having collected six points from their four games to date.

But Epakis is under no illusions about the challenge that the navy-and-whites will pose in what is undoubtedly the game of the round.

“What can you say?” he said.

“Melbourne have got close to 300 Matildas caps sprinkled throughout the team, the most experienced coach in the competition and they even train out of the home of the Matildas.

“So you look at that and think that this is going to be a big test.

“But I know that my team and my players are really up for this.

“We’ve been playing some really good football and some of the things that we focus on as a playing group are coming to life in games.

“This is another opportunity to ramp it up and go to another level.

“When you have that much experience and quality both on and off the field that they[ Victory] do, every opportunity to play against them is a good one because you really get to test yourselves.

“I wouldn’t say we particularly want to make a statement more than any other week, we just want to keep doing what we do.

“It’s a big challenge and we’re really excited for it.”

The build-up to Saturday’s game has been dominated by the prospect of Natasha Rigby becoming just the third player in Glory history to make 100 ALW appearances for the club and Epakis was unstinting in his praise of his skipper.

“It’s a huge milestone and one that I’m really happy to see her reach,” he said.

“The impact that she has had on this team since I’ve been here and in particular, over the last couple of years, has been unbelievable.

“I don’t think there’d be enough words to really put into place that would describe how much she’s done for the team.

“Her personal values and what she brings really resonates throughout the group and there’s a really clear link between the identity of our team and what she is and her personality.

“I really love that and I’m really happy for her.”

The Head Coach also lauded Georgia Cassidy who earlier this week was named as October’s nominee for the ALW Young Player of the Year award following a string of impressive performances at the heart of Glory’s midfield.

“Georgia is a very quiet character, but she’s come in with such a steely focus this year and has really taken the opportunity that she’s been given and run with it,” he said.

“Her first four appearances have been at a level that have probably exceeded her own expectations, but I’ve got a lot of belief in what she’s capable of and I think there’s a lot more to go.

“I’m really excited to see how she continues to develop this season; she’s a great talent.”

Victory, meanwhile, will head to Macedonia Park looking to build upon an impressive 4-0 defeat of Newcastle Jets last time out.

Matildas attacking midfielder Rachel Lowe grabbed two of the goals to open her account for the season and Ella O’Grady also found the net to double her tally for the campaign.

Other players to look out for in Jeff Hopkins’ squad include vastly-experienced Matildas Lydia Williams and Elise Kellond-Knight, who boast over 200 international caps between them, fellow-Matilda Emily Gielnik and commanding US defender, Kayla Morrison.

Glory have not tasted victory in this fixture since November 2017 and overall, Victory have enjoyed 12 wins to 11, but the last three meetings between the two clubs have yielded an even split of one victory apiece along with one draw.

(picture courtesy of Tom McCarthy)