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Popovic wary of Jets’ Mikeltadze in ALM


On Saturday night, Melbourne Victory Tony Popovic will be hoping to negate a player he rated so highly, he signed for his previous club.

The A-League Men’s powerhouse is up against the Newcastle Jets, featuring star Georgian striker Beka Mikeltadze.

The 24-year-old was a surprise arrival in Australia but has settled quickly, netting six goals in his seven games.

Popovic didn’t need to check the stats sheet to know his quality, luring him to Xanthi FC in Greece just a month before his own tenure was ended.

“I know him from Greece because we actually signed him at (Xanthi FC) just before I left,” he said.

“I I know the boy well and I know he’s a talented player … he’s mobile, he’s athletic, he’s young.

“I’m sure he will just get better and better.”

Mikeltadze didn’t feature under Popovic, but would eventually become a first team regular as Xanthi fell short of promotion to Greece’s top tier.

One of Popovic’s assistants at Xanthi, Arthur Diles, has joined Newcastle after Popovic’s sacking, providing the connection to lure the Georgian to the A-League.

Another of Popovic’s Xanthi signings – Matthew Jurman – has also resettled at the Jets but it’s unclear whether he will join the reunion.

The big centre-back limped off before half-time in Tuesday night’s 4-2 shellacking by Melbourne City but has been cleared of a serious ankle injury.

With a short turnaround, Jets coach Arthur Papas said he would definitely make changes to his XI, with Riley Warland or Taylor Regan to deputise for the Jets captain if he is unfit.

Victory were also in midweek action, losing 1-0 to Wellington in an FFA Cup final hangover.

Popovic said the congested nature of the schedule meant his team – and every team – needed to be fitter if they wanted to end the campaign as champions.

“Each season and each period in a year brings about different challenges,” he said.

“It will come down to how fit your players are.

“How good your squad is and when I say how good, how deep your squad is.

“That will certainly show at the end of the season.”

Robbie Kruse and Roderick Miranda face fitness tests to determine whether they can return from injury against the Jets.

Popovic, whose team sits fourth, said Victory must deal with the speed of Newcastle, who is 10th, to prevail.

“They’re really quick going forward,” he acknowledged.

“Probably the quickest team in transition in the league.

“They press very high.

“They’re very aggressive in their play … so we’ve got to control the game.”

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