Melbourne Victory’s superstar marquee Keisuke Honda declared himself capable of contributing to his side’s efforts against Perth Glory on Sunday night, but Kevin Muscat doesn’t seem in any great rush to reinsert the 32-year-old into his starting line-up.
Honda, as well as new signing James Donachie, was amongst the ‘ins’ named in Victory’s squad list for Sunday’s game against Perth Glory.
The man capped 98 times for the Samurai Blue hasn’t played for the defending A-League champions since their round eight triumph over Brisbane Roar.
Initially diagnosed with a minor hamstring strain, further complications arose in early January that led to his extended absence.
His side has taken 18 of a possible 27 points on offer in his absence, however, enabling them to keep pace with league-leading Perth Glory during his nine-week rehabilitation.
“I think that I might have a chance to play the second half,” Honda said yesterday.
“I can, it depends on the game situation, maybe if I have to play the situation is maybe bad because I think we have to score, we have to attack.”
Muscat struck a similar tone with reporters following the press conference and providing a further injury update on the rest of his squad.
“If he’s involved, I can’t see him coming on in the first half,” he said
“We’ve got to be realistic with injuries as well. Whilst gaining fitness you fatigue quicker and under fatigue, you’re under more risk. So, all those factors will be taken into consideration.
“We’ll just have to wait and see. Now, it’s about combining the fitness side of things with his rehabilitation. But he’s in a good place.
“Georg Niedermeier’s (also) in a good place.
“We’ve got to be realistic about how they can impact and influence the team because as he said we’ve performed remarkably well considering the players and the quality and the quality of players we haven’t had available.
“Carl’s the only certainty not to be available.
“Ola got a knock last week in training. So, the knock and then, as the days went on, it gets a little bit worse and on gameday, he felt so much better the day or two before gameday so there was no point taking any risks.
“(He’s) not unlikely, we’re assessing him.”
If Victory is to secure the three points they will have to do so so against a Perth side that has rediscovered its killer instinct in recent weeks.
After a run of back-to-back scoreless draws with Melbourne City and Adelaide United, Glory have rebounded in recent weeks; recording a 2-0 win over Newcastle and a 3-0 defeat of Wellington Phoenix.
Glory set a new club record for games without conceding in that win over the visiting ‘Nix, with goals from Shane Lowry, returning Socceroo Chris Ikonomidis and Andy Keogh sending a stark warning to Victory ahead of their visit to Melbourne.
The result of Sunday’s contest, though not able to affect ladder positioning, could very well have stark ramifications for the rest of the A-League campaign.
A win would move Head Coach Tony Popovic’s side seven points clear of Victory and eight points clear of Sydney on the table, creating some real breathing room between the men from the West and the chasing pack.
A triumph by Muscat’s men, conversely, would reduce the points gap at the top to one and, with Perth set to meet Victory and Sydney both once more in the final weeks of the season, breath renewed life into the chase for the 2018/19 A-League Championship.
“Who knows?” Muscat said when asked about the game’s broader context
“I’m not thinking about results at this point in time. It’s not my focus. I work back and there’s a lot of things that come before winning that we’ve got to get right and that’s might focus; make sure we earn the right to perform well enough to win the game.
“You can tell because everybody’s wanting to play (Perth).
“Perth has done really well and been consistent. They’ve had the opportunity to give players a rest here or there, we really haven’t.
“So that’s why I’m extremely proud of the way the group have gone about things to stay in touch and take the amount of points and perform the way we have.”