Adrian Leijer is confident Melbourne Victory can cope with a host of key absentees when they face fellow A-League frontrunners Sydney FC away from home on Saturday.
Victory will be without Daniel Georgievski, Connor Pain and Kosta Barbarouses for the crunch match at Allianz Stadium, with all three players away on international duty,
Mark Milligan, Scott Galloway and Jason Geria, who were released from national team duty due to recent injuries, will not be available for selection under FFA regulations.
Several more players were absent from training on Wednesday as they underwent recovery work behind closed doors, while veteran Archie Thompson finished the session early.
Unless the situation improves, Kevin Muscat may well have trouble putting together a competitive XI this weekend, but Leijer backed the team to demonstrate their strength-in-depth once again.
“It’s not ideal but Musky’s put together a really good squad,” Leijer said.
“I’m sure we can still put out a very strong team.”
The clash with Sydney is likely to arrive too soon for Nick Ansell to feature, despite the young centre-back closing in on a return to full fitness.
“Nick, they have to be careful with him,” Leijer said when asked if the 20-year-old might be rushed back.
“He’s had quite a serious injury, he’s managed it really well. He’s been great off the pitch, training hard and looking after himself. The medical staff will do the right thing by him.”
Finally, having missed the 2-0 win over Wellington Phoenix after being sent off for a picking up a second yellow card for dissent away to Perth Glory in the FFA Cup quarter-finals, Leijer announced a new tactic in his bid to avoid more unnecessary suspensions.
“I’ve decided not to speak to referees at all. That’s something I’m going to work at. It’s something I’m trying to improve on.”