Kevin Muscat believes Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold crossed a line ahead of Saturday's blockbuster clash by suggesting Melbourne Victory have already peaked this season.
Arnold talked up the potential of his Sydney FC side following a battling 0-0 draw away to Adelaide United last Friday, while claiming the Reds and the Big V are unlikely to get any better as the campaign progresses.
Although that could be interpreted as a compliment, Muscat - who takes an undermanned Victory to Allianz Stadium for a showdown with the Sky Blues - was less than impressed by his counterpart's opinion.
"Arnie's suggested that we've got no improvement in us, which I thought was a little bit disrespectful," he said.
"(With) all the players he's suggested we've got unavailable and (if) they've got so much improvement left in them, the rest should be pretty easy for them.
"There's no doubt they hung in there against Adelaide, credit to them, they hung in there and that's all they did."
Victory will be unable to field Scott Galloway due to the fullback having withdrawn from Olyroos duty, while Sydney's attempts to have Terry Antonis cleared to play were rebuffed by Football Federation Australia.
A car crash prevented the 20-year-old midfielder from travelling with the Socceroos for Tuesday's friendly in Japan..
Asked whether he sympathised with Sydney's bureaucratic plight or if he would be happy to see Antonis watching from the stands, Muscat said: "I'm not pleased but I don't feel sorry for them."
As for his own selection headaches, the Victory boss insisted his side can overcome the absence of Mark Milligan, Kosta Barbarouses, Connor Pain, Jason Geria and Daniel Georgievski - as well as Galloway - although it will take some creativity as far as filling out the team sheet is concerned.
"We've got options, it presents challenges," he said.
"I've focused all my time on solving those problems. Leigh Broxham can play at fullback, Rashid (Mahazi) can play at centre-back.
"We won't be making any excuses."
Kieran Dover and Milos Ridesic were among the less familiar faces named in Victory's match-day squad, while Bentleigh Greens' Christian Cavallo - fresh from facing Perth Glory in theWestfield FFA Cup on Wednesday - trained with Victory prior to their departure for Sydney, where one of Jesse Makarounas or Jordan Brown may start.