Melbourne Victory faces the prospect of going without James Troisi for the first week of the A-League finals after Kevin Muscat revealed on Monday that the attacker had suffered a hamstring injury that was set to keep him out for at least a fortnight.
Victory’s number ten was forced to withdraw with that hamstring complaint in just the 32nd minute of Victory’s 1-0 loss to Adelaide United on Saturday; a fixture that – combined with Melbourne City’s loss to Wellington – all but guarantees that the A-League will see its fourth Melbourne Derby of the 2018/19 season played out in week one of the finals.
Speaking ahead of his side’s Asian Champions League (ACL) meeting with Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande on Tuesday night, Muscat revealed that not only would 30-year-old Troisi not be available for the ACL, but that he was set for a number of weeks on the sidelines.
“James has got a very low-grade hamstring tear,” Muscat explained.
“So, optimistic side of it is two weeks… the pessimistic side is a bit longer.
“We’ll treat him as it presents.
This time of the year – it’s never ideal – but at this time of the year, it’s far from ideal.
“James has been working tirelessly, making improvements already.
“We’ll keep treating it as it presents on a daily basis. We’ll give him every opportunity. He’s working hard and we’ll just have to wait and see.”
The absence of Troisi figures to be just one of a number of changes to Victory’s line-up ahead of their clash with Evergrande at AAMI Park on Tuesday night.
Victory’s path to the next round of the ACL is all but closed just three games into the competition: Muscat’s men rooted to the bottom of Group F after three straight defeats and chasing three sides – Evergrande, Korean side Daegu and Japanese side Sanfrecce Hiroshima – that all possess six points.
And with just one round remaining until A-League finals begin, Muscat revealed that a number of fresh faces would take the field on Tuesday in order to allow for his group’s more senior players to rest and recuperate.
“Safe to say there will be a few changes to our team tomorrow night,” he said
“[There’ll be] opportunities for certain players. We haven’t finalised that at this stage but we will make some changes to the team.
“It’s been documented, we’ve had quite a few injuries throughout the year so there’s some that will be out through precaution and some of it will be purely an opportunity for others.”
This opportunity will extend to Victory custodian Lawrence Thomas, who Muscat declared would start against after he served as the back-up to Matthew Acton against Adelaide on the weekend.
“Lawrence gets an opportunity tomorrow,” Muscat said
“Once the game’s done we’ll assess everything on merit and pick the next team based on merits.”
Victory has never lost against Chinese opposition in home ACL fixtures, a run which includes a 2-0 win over Evergrande in the 2014 iteration of the competition.
Given the comprehensive nature of Evergrande’s performance in the 10 April meeting between the two sides as well as the dead-rubber nature of the tie from Victory’s point of view, though, that record would seemingly be under significant threat come Tuesday night.
“No doubt subconsciously and there’s some of the staff members will prioritize their efforts into certain areas,” Muscat said when asked about his side’s focus
“[But] my focus at the moment is on tomorrow night’s game.
“Without doing a disservice to a competition or a disservice to the players that are going to play, we’re putting energy into that; to perform well here in Melbourne.
“Naturally, the biggest thing about the way in which we went across [to China for the 10 April fixture] is that after nine minutes the tie was dead.
“Hit the crossbar and they score two goals.
“All the preparation that we’d done, we went across and after nine minutes the tie was dead and that was really unacceptable.
“Naturally as well you throw to a mixture [of being] away from home and playing against a good team with a couple of world-class individuals.
“It’s going to take a good performance from us tomorrow night and that’s the opportunity that lays ahead of us.”