WESTERN Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic says marquee man Shinji Ono is likely to miss Sunday's A-League match against Wellington Phoenix with a minor groin strain.
The Japanese star suffered the injury in Friday's 3-1 loss to Brisbane and was replaced before half-time.
A relieved Popovic revealed the injury is not serious and said Ono is still holding hope of playing in Sunday's clash against the Phoenix, but the coach expects the star midfielder to miss the Round 8 match.
"We're not expecting him to play," Popovic said on Monday.
"We're hopeful and it's not a serious injury, which is great, but at best he's 50-50 for that match and at the moment we don't expect him to be out there.
"He's got a slight groin strain, we're obviously happy that it's not a bad one but he would have to probably have a great recovery by Thursday-Friday to have a chance.
"At the moment I don't expect to see him out there but the player's very optimistic that he's a chance so we'll just wait and see."
While Ono's absence would be a blow, the Wanderers are likely to be boosted by the return of livewire Youssouf Hersi, who has missed the past four matches with a foot injury.
The Wanderers are looking to bounce back from their first loss in 18 regular season games against an unlucky Phoenix outfit yet to register their first win of the campaign.
Popovic says his players' spirits remain high despite their rare blemish but remains wary of the Phoenix, who are coming off another heart-breaking loss to Sydney FC – their third defeat of the season.
"The feeling's quite good, the boys are looking forward to getting on the track and preparing well for our next match," Popovic said.
"We learnt some lessons from that game and we performed well but there are areas where we can improve and we lost the game, which we're not happy about, but we'll move on."
He added of the Phoenix, who currently sit second last on the A-League ladder: "They're playing good football in every single match and we can certainly vouch for that after playing them in Round 2 and they played very well against us that day and we shared the spoils that day and it could have gone either way.
"We certainly have a lot of respect for them and we won't take them lightly, that's for sure."