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Honda set to start in A-League derby

Keisuke Honda's Melbourne Victory teammates have given the Japanese star the tick to start in Saturday's A-League derby.

Honda, 32, hasn't started a match in 11 rounds due to a hamstring injury but should return at Marvel Stadium as Victory look to inflict more woe on out-of-form rivals Melbourne City.

"He should be back. It's a massive boost for us having Mr Honda there," goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas said.

Victory will edge closer to full-strength against their rivals, with Ola Toivonen also firming as a bench-warmer after three weeks out from a training knock.

On paper, Kevin Muscat's side should clean up City.

Warren Joyce's side sit fifth and appear finals-bound but their last month has been appalling, slumping to the bottom of the A-League's form table.

City have just one point from their last four games, and one win in their last seven matches. But Thomas has a long memory and remembers just where Victory were sitting

A comparison of City this season and Victory last season makes for interesting reading.

Muscat's champions-in-waiting were also fifth, with seven wins and five draws from 19 matches.

From round 20 onwards Victory won nine of 11 matches to seal the club's fourth title.

Heading into this weekend's derby, Joyce's City have eight wins and four draws, leaving them better placed than Victory last season.

"(City are) dangerous," Thomas said.

"They're sitting where we were at a similar point last year and we ended up coming good at the end.

"For us we need to win to keep a chance of catching Perth ... we need to turn up and I believe we will."

The comparison certainly paints City in a good light, but Joyce - unsigned at for next season - will know he needs to avoid defeat on Saturday to avoid further scrutiny on his tenure.

They can also fall back on their derby record this season, with match-changing late goals in their previous meetings.

In round one, Luke Brattan's through-ball to Riley McGree earned City a 2-1 win, while in the Christmas derby Dario Vidosic popped up at the death with a headed equaliser.

"They've done us twice but we'll go down there with a lot of confidence," James Donachie said.

"The boss always says the derby is different because of the intensity of the game and what it means.

"Every team will lift. You always go in pretty even. We're confident going in off our season performances."

VICTORY 2017/2018 v CITY 2018/2019

Melbourne Victory after 19 rounds last season: 7 wins, 5 draws, 7 losses - 26 points

Melbourne City after 19 rounds this season: 8 wins, 4 draws, 7 losses - 28 points.