Champions Melbourne Victory are on guard for an in-form Adelaide in their A-League clash on Saturday night, with coach Kevin Muscat rating their long-time rivals a better unit than last season.
Both teams have made impressive starts to the campaign, with Victory coming off a 4-0 shellacking of Western Sydney to book their fourth successive win as they set up their title defence.
The Reds have won their last two matches, with electric winger Ben Halloran scoring both goals to head off Brisbane last week
Muscat said his team hadn't wasted any time basking in the big win over the Wanderers, well aware that Adelaide always lifted for a fiery challenge.
"They come across here and there's no love lost between the two clubs for the fact of playing some very important games against each other over the years," Muscat said on Friday.
"We've worked on reproducing the performance ... there will be different questions asked in the game but the one thing that stays constant is that we rely on what we do."
Victory won their last meeting, eliminating United from the finals in a 2-1 triumph sealed by a spectacular strike from Beshart Berisha.
Muscat felt Adelaide had improved from last season.
"(Coach Marco Kurz) has done a fantastic job in relation to the way they play and what we've seen in our preparations," Muscat said.
"They've improved structurally on where they were last season."
Veteran German defender Georg Neidermeier will make his return for Victory after recovering from concussion while attacker James Troisi is also back after illness.
Nick Ansell is sidelined with a shoulder injury suffered late in the Wanderers match.
Adelaide will be without suspended defender Taylor Regan with Danish centre back Michael Jakobsen taking his place.
Muscat said he was delighted by the depth in his squad.
"The standards have been set pretty high and the playing group and individuals have responded to that," he said.
"We just continue to push ourselves to get better and better."
STATS THAT MATTER
* Victory have lost just twice to Adelaide in their last 16 meetings although the visitors were triumphant the last time they met at Marvel Stadium.
* Adelaide's Ryan Kitto boasts a shooting accuracy of 83 per cent (ex blocks and minimum of five goals) - the equal most of anyone in the competition alongside Victory's Ola Toivonen.
* Melbourne have registered 41 shots on target this season, 12 more than any other team.
Australian Associated Press