Melbourne Victory boss Kevin Muscat is hoping to welcome back one of the most experienced of all his campaigners, Mark Milligan, this weekend as Victory look to chalk up two wins in a row for the first time this campaign when they take on cross-town rivals Melbourne City in the second Melbourne derby of the season.
Muscat resisted the clamour to bring in a host of youthful faces into the starting line up last Sunday and got his reward when Rhys Williams and Kosta Barbarouses scored to set up the club's third away win of the campaign, a 2-1 win against Brisbane Roar.
That they did so without injured star Milligan was to their credit, and the sometime Socceroos skipper, on the injury list since limping off after the disappointing 2-1 home loss to Adelaide United on December 8, might be available to take some part in Saturday night's AAMI blockbuster.
"'Millsy' is going really well. When he did it a couple of weeks ago it was only a very very mild incident," the Victory boss told Melbourne radio station SEN on Wednesday morning.
"He has trained very well and ticked every box at this stage but with muscular injuries you have to make sure you tick all those boxes, and as soon as you don't tick one off the risk becomes too great. But at this point he is very good condition."
Milligan scored a tremendous goal to equalise against Adelaide before he had to leave the pitch and the fact that he is still trying to recover for the big pre-Christmas derby is emblematic of the seaosn he has endured.
The midfielder missed several games as he was away with the national team on World Cup qualifying duty against Syria and Honduras, and then missed the match against Wellington through suspension following his dismissal against Newcastle.
The Victory coach has argued that this season has presented difficulties that few others have because of the international commitments of his senior men, and he is hoping that with Milligan, James Troisi and Barbarouses now no longer involved in World Cup qualifiers, Victory can reset themselves for the final 16 games of the 27-match season.
"It's been a unique season for us for a number of reasons. We have had to deal with a few things for the first time, but isn't that part of the challenge. It certainly has been challenging, but its one I am taking on head on," he said.
"We are only 11 games in and we still have a big story to tell in the remaining weeks of the season."
Like most involved in the professional game, Muscat has deep reservations about the VAR trial currently taking place in the A-League.
The video referees are causing mounting controversy every week with their decisions, and the furore hit a high in the last round with Central Coast having two men sent off in their loss to Western Sydney Wanderers, while Victory themselves had a goal to Besart Berisha disallowed through a decision by the video-assisted judges.
Muscat believes that the referees in the stand are at a huge disadvantage, one that markedly effects the outcome of games, because they are simply not in tune with the mood, feel, flow and rhythm of what is going on on the pitch.
"I am all for improving and taking on technology ... (but) the people that are using it are experiencing some difficulties.
"It takes a long time and removes a bit of the emotion. The referee upstairs is making a discretionary call from upstairs where he has no feeling for the game.
"The feeling for the game is lost. That's the part we are going to have to get better at."