Rival captains of Melbourne’s two glamour clubs, both are vying for the championship in what’s shaping as the tightest battle in the competition’s history.
The A-League season kicks off tomorrow night when the Brisbane Roar host Melbourne Victory, before the credentials of the cross-town rivals are tested in next weekend’s much-anticipated Melbourne derby.
But while City’s Uruguayan hitman Fornaroli faces pressure to outdo last campaign’s record-breaking, golden-boot winning 25 goals, his Victory counterpart hopes he can make up for lost time and help return Kevin Muscat’s side to silverware.
Valeri was sidelined for four months in 2015-16 with a rare inflammatory condition affecting his brain.
He was left with blurred vision and struggled to walk, and in his absence Victory’s results suffered.
But after a full pre-season, the 32-year-old former Socceroos midfielder will again lead his strengthened line-up in Friday night’s season-opener against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium.
“Last year has been and gone and I’m feeling great,” Valeri said.
“It’s important for me personally to feel good, but the fact that I can contribute to the team and the team is doing well is fantastic.
“Looking back now I wonder, how didn’t I think my career was over with the symptoms I had?
“The great thing is that with the great support I’ve had through my family and the club I’m back playing professional football.
“If I wasn’t well I couldn’t play in the A-League.”
Fornaroli, meanwhile, is attempting to temper expectations he can better last campaign’s incredible output.
“Well have to see, I’m not (Cristiano) Ronaldo,” he said.
“When I start each season I put short-term goals.
“I don’t think at the start of the year I want 28 or 30 goals.
“But of course for a striker you have to score.”
As a collective, Fornaroli said John van `t Schip’s star-studded outfit was ready to embrace the pressure to deliver silverware.
“We have a little bit more pressure to win the league, but I like this and I want to win the league. We’re ready for this,” he said.
“This year we have very good players like Neil Kilkenny, Luke (Brattan), Fernando (Brandan), (Nicolas) Colazo, Timmy (Cahill) and it will help us a lot.”
Victory enter this season without influential duo Gui Finkler and Kosta Barbarouses, now Wellington marquee players.
But the departures are well offset by the arrivals of Marco Rojas, James Troisi, Alan Baro and James Donachie, providing the squad with just the right balance.
“We had a great team last year, but this year I really do think we’ve got great, versatile players with great personal motivation who can really bring that into the team and drive it forward,” Valeri said.
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