MELBOURNE Victory coach Kevin Muscat has backed his depleted side to produce a competitive performance against Western Sydney Wanderers tomorrow, despite missing a host of important players.
While Adrian Leijer will return from suspension, his fellow centre-back Pablo Contreras must sit the game out for disciplinary reasons. Key midfielders Mark Milligan and Mitch Nichols are in doubt, while Scott Galloway, Jason Geria, Connor Pain and Nick Ansell are all away on international duty with Australia's Under-22 side.
And with all those absentees, the Victory coach is unable to make changes to freshen up the team following their short turnaround.
"If I had some more bodies I probably would," he said. "The players are fully aware of the numbers we've got, the bodies we've got available at the moment.
"Obviously Pablo's suspended. Mitch Nichols came off with a knock to his knee. And we're still not sure on Mark Milligan."
When pressed on the likelihood of Nichols being passed fit to play, Muscat said: "I'd suggest he'll struggle, to be honest, he'll struggle to play tomorrow.
"If I'm honest, I was pleased with the performance at the weekend. It was pretty disjointed, as expected, early on.
"(There were) a lot of ... new combinations and players who didn't play in positions previously. But I've got confidence, we've got a good squad here a lot of the young boys come in and did well."
Wide defender Adama Traore was moved to centre-back against the Jets, with teenager Dylan Murnane replacing him at left-back, and Leigh Broxham filling in on the other flank.
Aside from Leijer replacing Contreras, Muscat confirmed the makeshift defence would remain the same for the visit of the Wanderers.
"Pretty handy that we're getting these suspensions one at a time," he said.
"Ado (Leijer) will come in. That'll be another reshuffle to the defence. But, like I said, rather than worry about the players that aren't here and aren't available, I've got to concentrate on the ones that are, because they certainly done themselves proud and really had a go on Friday night."
The last match between the Wanderers and Victory in Melbourne late last month was marred by a confrontation between supporters in the city before the game, followed by flares and smoke bombs being set off by away fans at AAMI Park.
However, Muscat said he does not anticipate trouble from the home contingent this week.
"The fans of this football club have been the flag-bearers of the A-League since the start of the competition," he said.
"For the fact there's a small minority which misbehave, all in all, the majority have been superb for us and I have no reason to think it won't be the same tomorrow."
And as for a potential repeat of issues in the away corner of the stadium, Muscat added: "It's something that's certainly out of my control.
"I'll just worry about picking the best team possible for a good game of football tomorrow night."