Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat has sent a blunt warning to his players: switch on now not when the A-League Finals Series kicks off in two weeks.
Victory is preparing for Tuesday night's clash with one of Asia's biggest clubs, Guangzhou Evergrande.
But with their Asian Champions League campaign in tatters after three losses, thoughts of a possible elimination final with bitter rival Melbourne City are in the back of minds.
And while Muscat conceded some resources in his coaching team were being directed to the A-League rather than tomorrow night, he was unequivocal about his team not mentally switching off.
“Waiting to turn up in two weeks’ time isn’t going to help us.
"We have to stay in that focus and that zone,” he stressed today.
Keeper Lawrence Thomas is set to return in goal for Tuesday night’s ACL clash with Guangzhou Evergrande but James Troisi could miss the rest of the season for Victory.
The attacking mid has a low-grade hamstring injury and Muscat says the best scenario is he’ll be back in two weeks.
It’s more likely that the ex-Socceroo could miss the remainder of the season, including an almost certain A-League elimination final blockbuster against City.
Muscat will aim to rotate some of his squad for Tuesday night’s clash with the Chinese Super League powerhouse.
“We will make some changes to the team,” Muscat confirmed.
“The rest we haven’t finalized but we will give opportunities.”
And with a potentially huge match against City looming in the Finals, Victory captain Carl Valeri said being “professional” was of prime importance when approaching Tuesday night’s clash.
“You have to focus on the next thing. And that’s doing well tomorrow night. Because you want to take some form into the finals.
“The best way to prepare [for finals football] is to play. We’ve got to play to our maximum and whoever plays, give it everything. I
"It's a chance for other players who haven’t been playing. And for us to build up momentum.”
The Victory coach added he rued his side’s awful start against Guangzhou earlier this month, declaring the tie was effectively over inside the first 10 minutes.
“It was unacceptable,” he said of a 4-0 drubbing in China.