Victory striker crisis as young gun waits in wings
NEW signing Rahmat Akbari could be thrown straight into the first XI as Melbourne Victory juggle a host of makeshift attacking options for Saturday's grand final replay.
Sweden World Cup striker Ola Toivonen will be given until the last minute, but his debut remains in doubt once again as he battles to regain full fitness after a minor pre-season calf setback.
Victory is facing a striker crisis for the return to McDonald Jones Stadium - the scene of last season's title triumph - with Round 1 and 2 starter Kenny Athiu ruled out after straining his hamstring in last Sunday's loss to Perth Glory.
Akbari, 18, only joined from Brisbane Roar last week but the Afghanistani-born Australian youth international looms as one of the few fit, natural attacking options.
Winger Jai Ingham was deployed in the striker's role when coming on for Athiu, alongside Kosta Barbarouses, who's adopted a more central position in Victory's new formation.
Muscat may adopt another formation change for the Jets clash, by offsetting his depleted striking stocks to beef up a talent-laden midfield.
Captain Carl Valeri is itching for a start after coming on as a late substitute in the opening two games, with last season's regular Leigh Broxham also on the bench.
Victory's new four-man midfield - Spanish pitbull Raul Baena, Socceroo James Troisi, goalscorer Terry Antonis and Japan star Keusuke Honda - is a work in progress but has shown promising signs.
Muscat would be loathe to drop any of them, hence Valeri's entrance could see a return to last season's favoured title-winning 4-2-3-1.
Toivonen trained solo at Gosch's Paddock on Tuesday, and still looks well short of the fitness and sharpness required to return to the team sheet.
Victory are adopting a cautious approach with Toivonen, who did a series of runs at no higher than 60 per cent intensity plus some light ball work.
Defender Georg Niedermeier missed training and will continue to be monitored as he recovers from the heavy collision with Glory keeper Liam Reddy.
Teenager Birkan Kirdar, who starred for the Joeys at the recent Asian Under 16 Championships, may also come into the squad.