A young all-Australian Melbourne Victory side will be tasked with keeping their Asian Champions League (ACL) campaign on track.
Victory plays Yokohama F. Marinos on Wednesday night without a host of international players as the club attempts the perennial juggle between A-League and ACL commitments.
Kosta Barbarouses and Pablo Contreras are suspended for the game, with Gui Finkler not eligible for the ACL squad.
With his squad’s fitness and a tricky A-League match against Newcastle on Saturday on his mind, coach Kevin Muscat has kept Socceroos Mark Milligan and Tom Rogic in Australia along with defenders Adama Traore and Nick Ansell.
With two away-days to complete their A-League season, in Newcastle and Wellington, it seems Muscat has prioritised the domestic league.
Victory sit fifth in the A-League, two points behind Cental Coast in second.
A second placed A-League finish would give Victory a week off and a home match to make the grand final – and boost their chances of another year of ACL.
So for this trip to the cherry-blossom lined streets of Yokohama, the kids will have to do.
It makes for a very young and all-Australian outfit to represent Victory, but Muscat said the team line-up wouldn’t cost them a shot at a win.
“Like the other three games, we believe we’ve picked the best available team to go and win the football game,” he said.
Muscat said Leigh Broxham, Jesse Makarounas and Dylan Murnane would return to the side that beat the J-League side a fortnight ago in Melbourne.
Yokohama have just one point from their opening three games and Muscat expects a fired up team, which could include international star Shunsuke Nakamura.
A win would put them in a good position to qualify second but Muscat didn’t want to get drawn into guessing games.
“I don’t want to get bogged down on win or what a point would do for us,” he said.
“The one thing is certain, they’ve really got to win to give themselves a realistic chance from the group, that might play in our hands.”