Melbourne City host Newcastle Jets, with all eyes remaining on the A-League’s glamour club as David Villa prepares to play his first home game.
Having won two titles with Brisbane Roar, Massimo Murdocca has a fair idea of what constitutes pressure in the A-League.
And the dynamic midfielder can only agree with recent statements by Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold and Newcastle Jets mentor Phil Stubbins – the heat is on at Melbourne City.
“The build up to that first game, it was probably the most pressure I’ve felt in my career,” Murdocca, who has played in all 10 A-League seasons, told AAP.
“You know everyone’s looking at the club – whether it’s for David Villa or Damien Duff.
“Everyone wanted to know how we’d cope with the tag and the pressure.
“The boys responded quite well. Everyone stepped up. It’s a great sign for the things we want to achieve, but it’s only one game.”
Nine months after shock revelations of Manchester City’s investment in Melbourne Heart, the club’s transformation is stark.
The City Football Group has delivered Spain’s all-time leading goal scorer Villa on loan, while Irishman Duff and former Slovenia captain Robert Koren have brought a wealth of international experience.
High-profile Australian signings Erik Paartalu and Aaron Mooy, part of successful sides at Brisbane and Western Sydney respectively, impressed in round one.
It’s paved the way for a season of great expectations at the reigning wooden spooners, and will bring no shortage of new fans to AAMI Park.
On Sunday, City host Newcastle and a crowd of approximately 15,000 is expected for Villa’s first home game.
That would be three times as many that attended the corresponding fixture in 2013/14.
“That paints a picture of just how far this club has come in a short space,” Murdocca said.
For all the buzz off the park, Murdocca knows his side must deliver on it.
“If we want to achieve and win things, you’ve got to be able to deal with that sort of pressure,” the 30-year-old said.
“Both Erik and I did that at Brisbane.
“It’s those moments of very high pressure that really separate you from good to great.
“At Brisbane we were great for a while there, and that’s the standard we want to get to here.”
Koren could make his A-League debut on Sunday, having missed the draw with Sydney FC due to a calf injury, while Villa will start.