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Van 't Schip in parting message to City

AAP logoAAP 4/01/2017 Ben McKay

Melbourne City have a task to overcome the shock loss of coach John van 't Schip when they play Western Sydney, but their new boss says they're up to it.

Michael Valkanis has been handed the reins while the A-League club undergoes a global search for van 't Schip's long-term replacement.

Van 't Schip told City's players he was leaving on the training pitch on Tuesday and Valkanis reported seeing plenty of stunned faces.

"We were shocked by JVS's news that he was going back to his family. We weren't expecting it," he said.

"He had a word to the team as well in terms of quickly focusing on the next game.

"We all have to move on and John asked us to move on and John wants us to do very well.

"There's no doubt about it. We will."

While the cause of the 53-year-old's departure is lamentable - he will assist with his father's pallative care in the Netherlands - it could provide something of a circuit-breaker for City.

Since their FFA Cup final win on November 30, they are winless and have dropped from second in the league to fourth.

The club's reduced form isn't news to Valkanis, who saw a similar drop-off at Adelaide as assistant manager after their 2014 FFA Cup success.

"We're not going to shy away from the fact the team fell away a little bit," he said.

"It took a lot of emotional energy out of the players but also a lot of physical energy because we had a tough schedule."

The club's latest result - a 2-2 draw away to minnows Central Coast - disappointed fans but Valkanis saw something in the club's late fightback to snatch a draw.

"I described it as a lion coming out of them that has been sleeping for some time," he said.

"They turned the arm wrestle ... that's what we needed. We needed to awaken the lion within that they've all got, that we've seen. The lion that we saw winning the cup.

"Watching the boys at training, they've not trained like that for a while so there's been a bit of a spark. We're really looking forward to this game."

Against the Wanderers, two key defenders could return.

Michael Jakobsen and Osama Malik have resumed training with the main group this week and will be assessed for first-team action after Thursday's main session.

New Wanderers Vedran Janjetovic and Terry Antonis will also be assessed ahead of possible debuts at AAMI Park.

Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic said he was aware of what he was leading his team into.

"You'd expect them to be what they are at home - very strong," he said.

"We wish (van 't Schip) and his family all the best ... I'm sure they'll be motivated to try and win for their coach."

STATS THAT MATTER

* The match will start Michael Valkanis' second stint as an A-League interim boss, having overseen Adelaide United in the 2012/13 season for two wins in nine matches.

* Western Sydney dominates the head-to-head record between the two expansion sides, with eight wins to City's two from 13 meetings.

* With Brendon Santalab (six goals) suspended, Bruno Fornaroli (10 goals) has eight more goals this season than any Wanderers available to Tony Popovic.

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