Socceroos greats up for fresh ALM battle

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Once teammates now managerial foes, Socceroos legends Tony Popovic and John Aloisi will dispense with niceties as they reboot their respective A-League Men coaching careers.

The pair have fought some intense battles on the touchline over the last decade and the next instalment of their rivalry is an intriguing prospect as both men settle into new posts.

Popovic's attempted rebuild of fallen power Melbourne Victory faces a tough test against Aloisi's Western United in their season-opening derby at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday night.

Victory's new-look squad has had limited match practice in the build-up and will be without defender Matthew Spiranovic, who is battling niggles on his return from a long lay-off.

Socceroos stiker Chris Ikonomidis is no certainty to start after a truncated preparation that including two stints in hotel quarantine.

But Popovic is confident Victory - featuring more than a dozen new players, including new captain Josh Brillante, and a revamped football department - can hit the ground running as the four-time champions look to recapture past glories.

"Everyone's excited," Popovic said.

"We want it to be the best club in Australia ... we've done a lot of good work in a short period of time off the field to try and build some foundations for now and for the future.

"The next step now is to start a season, to build on what we've done so far and keep growing as a football club and as a team."

Popovic and Aloisi were key members of the Socceroos squad for the drought-breaking 2006 World Cup appearance and both won more than 50 international caps before turning to coaching.

Their touchline rivalry reached a crescendo in 2016 when Popovic's Western Sydney Wanderers squeezed past Aloisi's Brisbane Roar in an epic semi-final, winning 5-4 after extra-time.

The pair each landed their third ALM coaching jobs over the off-season.

"We haven't had any recent discussions but I know Johnny well from playing together and we've had some great battles as opposing coaches," Popovic said.

"He's back in the game, which I believe is great. I know how much he loves football and loves coaching.

"I'm sure he'll do a very good job for Western United and tomorrow we'll both be going out there to get three points."

Aloisi, who also coached Melbourne Heart (2012-13), is back in an ALM hot seat for the first time since parting ways with Brisbane three years ago.

"I'm excited to be back," he said.

"You always want to get better and evolve as a coach but personally there's nothing to prove.

"It's more about the team and making sure we're as good as we can be."

United enter the ALM season on a positive note after beating Newcastle 2-1 in their FFA Cup tie last week.

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