Unbeaten Western Sydney Wanderers have lost in-form striker Tomi Juric for up to a month, but coach Tony Popovic is confident he has the depth to replace him for Saturday’s A-League clash with Melbourne Victory.
The only unbeaten team after six rounds, second-placed Wanderers, who haven’t lost in their past 17 regular season games, host third-placed Victory.
Socceroo Juric, who is the Wanderers’ leading scorer with three goals, hurt a knee against Melbourne Heart last week.
“It’s a little worse than what we expected, we’ll probably be missing him for about a month,” Popovic said on Friday.
“It’s a shame for the boy, but that’s part of football and this will be part of his maturity and growing as a player, to deal with the setback and come back a stronger player.”
Off season recruit Juric is the only Wanderer to have scored more than once this season.
Among the options for Popovic is last season’s leading Wanderers goalscorer Mark Bridge, who was demoted to the subs bench last week and has yet to find the net in the current campaign.
“We’ve got a few options that we can have a look at…but we’ll be comfortable with whoever plays up front,” Popovic said.
The Wanderers will again be without winger Youssouf Hersi (foot), though he may have lost his lucky charm status.
“We had people saying last year that we couldn’t win without Hersi, on the field, he’s been gone two weeks now and we’ve got two victories,” Wanderers goalkeeper Ante Covic said.
“We’re a team that can look down to the depth that we have.”
Popovic wasn’t ready to divulge whether captain Michael Beauchamp would return against Victory after making way for fellow Socceroos central defender Matthew Spiranovic, who made his Wanderers debut against Heart.
Victory will be without Mark Milligan and Kosta Barbarouses, who are on international duty with Australia and New Zealand respectively.
They have won just one away win in their last eight games.
It will be the first time Popovic has coached directly against his former Socceroo defensive colleague Kevin Muscat, who has taken over from Ange Postecoglou.
“He (Muscat) has always had leadership qualities and he was a leader on the field, (he’s got) a really good understanding of the game,” Popovic said.
“Personally I’m not surprised that he’s got this role and I’m sure he’ll do very well with it.”