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Victory’s Miranda targets ‘fairytale’ grand final win

Melbourne Victory deserves an A-League Men fairytale of their own as they look to cap a dramatic 18-month turnaround with a grand final win, captain Roderick Miranda says.

Victory head into Saturday’s championship decider against the Central Coast Mariners at a sold-out Gosford in the unusual position of outsiders, with the home side chasing a unique treble having already sealed the ALM premiership and AFC Cup over the past month.

Tony Popovic’s powerhouse club would historically have been considered favorites against the Mariners, who operate on one of the smallest budgets in the competition.

But Portuguese defender Miranda insists there’s plenty of romance in Victory’s run to the grand final – considering where the club has come from since the Melbourne derby riot in December 2022 and finishing second-from-bottom of the ladder last season.

Miranda (center) and his Victory teammates arrive for training during grand final week. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

Popovic’s side, third in the regular season, edged past Melbourne City on penalties in the elimination final before defeating competition darlings Wellington Phoenix to reach Saturday’s showpiece.

“With Wellington, everyone was making them the fairytale,” Miranda said.

“I understand on social media what they want to create – but at the same time, Melbourne Victory is one of the biggest clubs in Australia.

“People will think, ‘Yeah, they are big, they should be there.’

“I understand the fairytale story, but we already beat one team on a fairytale (run) and hopefully we can be humble enough to fight… to beat another.

“They’ve already won two trophies so they are in a really good way.

“We’ll do our maximum… to show where we’ve come from last season to create our fairytale.”

Popovic’s own narrative is worth mentioning in Victory’s rebound year: he has coached four grand finals and won none of them.

Popovic is hoping it’ll be ‘fifth time lucky’ as he chases an elusive grand final success. (Will Murray/AAP PHOTOS)

So too is the rebirth of former wunderkind Daniel Arzani, the heroics of evergreen striker Bruno Fornaroli and the emergence of young midfielder Jordi Valadon.

“It comes down to perception and how you perceive their fairytale, but we feel we can create our own history,” Popovic said.

“There’s a chance for us to lift a trophy… you don’t deserve to win a title, we know we will have to earn it.”

Popovic was tight-lipped on his squad selection but has Zinedine Machach back at his disposal after the Frenchman was suspended for the two-legged semi-final against Wellington.

“He’s a great personality and having him around and knowing he’s available is a lift for everyone,” Popovic said.

Victory went winless in three regular-season meetings with the Mariners, who are seeking to become the third side to clinch back-to-back ALM titles.

Victory went winless in three regular-season meetings with the Mariners (Morgan Hancock/AAP PHOTOS)

Manager Mark Jackson has enjoyed a charmed run to this year’s decider and says the experience of knockout football in Asia has left his side ready to handle whatever Victory throws at them.

“We know it’s a special game… we’ve had the mindset of not hiding away from these big games,” Jackson said.

“You can quite easily play it down but we’ve had big games over the last four weeks and we’ve dealt superbly well with them.

“The work that we’ve done during the season has got us to this moment and we’re going to trust that work to take us through into this game.”

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