Muscat weighs up Milligan fatigue as Victory welcome back internationals

Will Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat gamble on the fitness of skipper Mark Milligan or give an A-League debut to Argentinian import Mathias Sanchez when the navy blues host cross-town rivals Melbourne City in the first of this season’s Victorian derbies?
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Muscat was coy about the prospects of his captain starting after Milligan played a gruelling 120 minutes for the national team in that heart-stopping 2-1 win over Syria on Tuesday night. The national team captain also played a stamina-sapping 90 minutes in Malaysia four days earlier in the first of the two World Cup qualifiers.

But he is certain to bring in another Socceroo, forward James Troisi, and the NZ international Kosta Barbarouses.

All three missed last weekend’s round one loss to Sydney as they were away on international duty with and the All Whites.

If Milligan plays, he will be in midfield, Muscat said. If he doesn’t then it is likely Sanchez, who was an injury absentee last week, will be given the chance to start.

“Mathias Sanchez was very close last week and no risks were taken,” Muscat said.

“We have a full complement, the last couple of days we have had everyone back in training. It’s been a nice bright and sharp few days.

“Millsy played the whole game [against Syria] so we will have to integrate him a little bit differently. Jimmy [Troisi] has been really sharp.Kosta got back Sunday morning, so he has had the full week under his belt.

“Mathias has trained the whole week so, of course, it’s a boost … [we are] still assessing the recovery, especially Millsy. He played 90 minutes away in the first game in Malaysia as well. We will sleep on it and assess him again in the morning. If he is fine and is going to start he will play midfield.”

Muscat was excited by the debut of Leroy George, who was clearly not at peak fitness. The Dutchman showed plenty of good signs against Sydney and will be better for the outing.

“We have had to throw him in when he was underdone and for periods in the first half, the glimpses of what we could see, the ability he has and what is to come [was exciting]. We had to look after him at the start of the week, but he has come through without any issues whatsoever.

“There’s good competition for places now, it’s what everyone wants. Competition breeds desperation and performances. If you slip below that you run the risk of not playing. We have got some depth in that area.”

Muscat was not worried about Troisi getting abuse from City fans after he changed his mind at the last second in the off-season and signed for Victory, having indicated he would join City. And the Victory boss expected City’s Socceroo hero Tim Cahill would also cop stick from Victory fans despite his heroics in ‘s colours earlier in the week.

“I would be disappointed if he didn’t cop his fair share of abuse from opposition fans,” he said of Troisi. “Maybe we are not exposed to that sort of stuff regularly in . Timmy is probably expecting it as well.

“As an n, we are grateful he popped up with two goals, but hopefully he has spent all his goals this week.”

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