Bes ready to take on old friends
The opinion-splitting and oft-emotional Albanian hitman will be the centre of attention when he takes on his former Roar team-mates for the first time since his move south.
Berisha spent three successful seasons at Brisbane where we scored 50 times in 83 appearances, winning two championships and two premierships, along with individual accolades such as the 2011-12 A-League Golden Boot and Gary Wilkins Medal.
Speaking exclusively to FourFourTwo, both Thompson and Valeri said Berisha did not need any advice on how to handle the inevitable emotion of the occasion.
And while Thompson laughed that the Albanian is always the centre of attention, he insisted his frontline partner would know how to handle himself.
“I think he’s big enough and ugly enough to know what to do and how to focus his nervousness,” Thompson said.
“He’s friends with them off the pitch, but as soon as he crosses that white line it’s all about Melbourne Victory.”
Valeri echoed Thompson’s sentiment, laughing that Berisha didn’t care about close friends when it came to game-time.
“I think Bes prepares for every game 100 per cent,” Valeri said.
“There’s no advice you can give him. Obviously it’s a special game, but the way he’s prepared is the same as every game.
“He’ll be playing against his old mates, but he won’t treat them like mates.”
Victory have not beaten Roar in their past three meetings, including last season’s Semi Final when Berisha got the winner.
Both Thompson and Valeri did not read anything into the two clubs’ recent history, with the latter pointing out the number of personnel changes since last season’s Semi Final, with Berisha likely to be a big factor.
Berisha leads the A-League scoring charts with five goals this term and Thompson hailed his ability to settle into the club quickly given the level of expectation on his shoulders.
“He’s had huge success at Brisbane, but when you come to a club like Melbourne Victory, every game you get massive crowds, it’s a different atmosphere and a different pressure than what he’s used to at Brisbane,” Thompson said.
“He’s handled himself really well. He’s hit the ground running. I’ve seen so many good players come to Melbourne Victory, with huge expectations, and lose the faith of the supporters, but he’s been phenomenal.”
Thompson also praised Berisha’s impact in Victory’s firing frontline, which has an A-League high return of 14 goals from six games.
“He adds another dimension to our game, having him up as a high striker, it’s something we’ve not had over the past two seasons,” Thompson said.
“Now we’ve got a guy who can hold the ball up and is a real goal poacher. It takes a lot of the pressure off the wider strikers. You can see that we’re getting more space and time."