|By JAMES RANSON
Despite Alessandro Del Piero's mesmerising four-goal haul for Sydney FC against Wellington Phoenix last Sunday, Melbourne Victory defender Mark Milligan has dismissed the Italian's threat ahead of the clash on Australia Day.
Former Sky Blues man Milligan will be charged with the task of minding the dangerous Del Piero in the holding midfield role against his old side, but insisted the Italian star would not be where he is without his team-mates.
Milligan's claim will surprise many who saw the Italian star score three of his four goals with beautiful curling shots after beating a man.
"I don't think Del Piero would have had those chances he did if it wasn't for the quality around him," Milligan said.
"He's an unbelievable player, but unless the players around him are chipping in it's difficult for him."
When asked if keeping Del Piero quiet was the key to stopping Sydney, Milligan did not buy into the notion and said no-one at Victory would be intimated by the World Cup-winning star.
"No, not at all. On the weekend they showed with Joel Griffiths coming in and [Jason] Culina and [Brett] Emerton, especially in that final third they're very, very dangerous - they've got quality all across the pitch," he said.
"They've [Sydney FC] only hit some form in the last few weeks. There's no doubting his quality but if we worry about him we're going to get hurt in other areas."
Showing his best, Del Piero struck four times in the Sky Blues' 7-1 mauling of the Phoenix, but that did little to strike fear into Milligan.
"I don't think we're going to pay any special attention to him. We have our shape and we'll set up as normal," he said.
"I don't think the responsibility is going to fall all upon me to look after him.
"We've got players who can hurt them on the counter-attack as well. We're working very hard on us. Obviously we're aware of their strengths as we are of every team each week."
The match at AAMI Park is already sold out, with scouts rumoured to be in town to track Victory's New Zealand international winger Marco Rojas.
Milligan, who headed overseas to play in China as a 23-year-old, joked Rojas would not be going anywhere given the 21-year-old transports him to training, but said he had not heard anything formal despite interest from European giants Liverpool and Juventus this week.
"I haven't heard a great deal, I travel with him to training every day and he hasn't mentioned it to me yet. A lot of things are mentioned in the press that may or may not be true," he said.
"He's not going anywhere while he's driving me to training. No, obviously he's got to do the best thing for his future but we don't really talk about it.
"He's a very, very good player. I see him developing every week and the best thing about him is he's a very down to earth kid and takes all the pressure in his stride."He's the type of player who everything will just fall into place for him."
In other news for Victory, attacking midfielder Isaka Cernak has been released from his contract at the club.
The 23-year-old has made just four appearances under Ange Postecoglou this season, and is now free to find a new home.
"I made some great friends at Melbourne Victory and it's sad to be leaving, but I'd like to thank the club for the opportunities they gave me and I wish everyone well for the rest of the season and beyond," Cernak said via club statement.
"I haven't featured too often this season so I need to explore other opportunities to continue my development as a player."