AAP Soccer

Muscat to make last-minute Toivonen call

By AAP Newswire

Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat hopes he'll finally have his full complement of A-League imports available after the international break.

Raul Baena will miss Sunday's match with Central Coast as his hamstring complaint lingers, with striker Ola Toivonen a touch-and-go proposition to make his debut.

But their absence shouldn't be the determining factor against Mike Mulvey's side, given Muscat's incredible record against the Mariners.

In 15 meetings, Muscat's Victory have never been beaten by the small-town outfit, even if there's an acknowledgement they've improved this season.

"They've been really good in some games and then dropped away and then really good," Muscat said.

"I suppose like everybody, them included and us included, are searching for that consistency.

"I'm looking froward to coming up against a team that have got some threats. We're going to have to earn everything we get on Sunday evening."

Toivonen, 32, swapped solo work this week to train with his teammates after three weeks out with a lower leg issue.

Muscat said he was eager to be involved but a call would be made on match day.

"When they get to this point and they turn the corner and they're on the grass for any length of time they want to be involved," he said.

"We're pleased, really pleased at where he is. He's worked really hard, to be fair to him.

"He was bitterly disappointed to miss the start of the season and he's put himself in a position where he's making us think good and hard about this weekend."

Of Victory's other imports, Kosta Barbarouses is a known quantity, Georg Niedermeier looks to have eased into the backline and then there's Keisuke Honda.

The Japanese midfielder has put together three composed and intelligent displays in midfield, with Muscat saying opposition attention helped players such as Terry Antonis and James Troisi flourish.

"He got a lot of the ball last week and he comes under a lot of attention from opponents so it's up to him to find ways to find space that will give him a little bit more time to make the contributing passes, the killer pass," Muscat said.

"He's enjoying playing in a position where he's got licence to drift and find areas to hurt the opposition.

"Teams want to limit that influence that he has, which starts to open up other areas for other people so sometimes he might not be visually directly involved but indirectly he's creating space for other people around him."

STATS THAT MATTER

* Keisuke Honda leads the league in two categories after three rounds; assists (three, equal with Sydney's Milos Ninkovic) and tackles (13, equal with Central Coast's Ky Rowles).

* Central Coast have lost their past seven trips to face Victory at AAMI Park.

* A win for the Mariners would give Mulvey's side their best start to a season in five years.