For the first time this season, Melbourne Victory have a full deck of players available for their A-League campaign, a timely boost as they mount a late charge for a top-two finish.
Victory's ambitions go on the line against Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium on Friday night, where a win could be crucial for reeling in Sydney FC and nabbing direct progression to a home semi-final.
The finals race will be shaped in a bumper penultimate weekend to the A-League regular season.
Premiers Perth travel to Sydney in a top-of-the-table clash, third-placed Victory head to fourth-placed Adelaide and Melbourne City, in sixth, travel to Wellington in hope of hauling in the Phoenix in fifth.
Victory's path to defending their championship is fraught.
If they finish third, they'll face eight games in 33 days – including at least four away days – before the grand final.
Finishing second would give them a free weekend prior to an Asian Champions League trip to South Korea, allowing them to return for a home semi-final.
"With the schedule, would the weekend off be good? I'm not going to deny that," Victory coach Kevin Muscat said.
Muscat said Adelaide would be a stern test given their history and ambition.
"They're desperate for a home final. Especially after last year, that first elimination final was away, was here [in Melbourne]," Muscat said.
"They'll be desperate, they've been desperate against us in their games.
"Somehow they maybe leave a little bit in the tank for when they play us.
"I can't remember a dull game against them. There's always action … Coopers is a wonderful stadium for that."
Muscat said Terry Antonis and Carl Valeri were both available for the trip to South Australia, as was fit-again goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas.
He was coy as to whether his first-choice keeper would automatically resume.
"Lawrence has held it for quiRead More – Source