ARGENTINE midfielder Matias Sanchez looks set to be the Melbourne Victory visa player sacrificed for the 2018 Asian Champions League campaign.
Striker Besart Berisha, winger Leroy George and Kiwi Kosta Barbarouses are likely to get the nod as Victory’s three foreigners when the official squad is submitted to the Asian Football Confederation by Monday’s deadline.
Victory coach Kevin Muscat was faced with selection dilemmas in previous campaigns, leaving out Gui Finkler and Fahid Ben Khalafallah two years ago.
Finkler’s 2016 omission, following on from his gut-wrenching 2014 axing after recovering from a knee reconstruction, triggered his Victory exit.
This year is more straightforward, with Victory having used just four of five foreign spots only one player needs to be cut.
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Sanchez, 30, has been a fringe player this season, slotting in when Carl Valeri or Mark Milligan are unavailable, while fellow midfielder Terry Antonis joined a fortnight ago.
Victory could still exploit the “3+1” rule by signing an Asian player, something that Sydney FC is toying with.
Valeri trained at Gosch’s Paddock on Thursday and will return to the A-League first XI for Saturday’s home clash with Perth Glory (AAMI Park) after returning from suspension.
Rhys Williams’ suspension after his yellow card was overturned to a red by the VAR leaves Muscat with a defensive dilemma, with Leigh Broxham or Milligan set to be deployed in defence alongside Dino Djulbic.
Muscat was disappointed that Kosta Barbarouses’ goal was cancelled out by Wellington Phoenix’s late raid, securing a 2-1 win on Wednesday.
With Victory kicking off its Asian campaign at home to Koreans Ulsan Hyundai on February 13, Muscat was confident they had the depth to compete in both competitions.
Football: Wellington pulled off the unlikely in their drama-packed 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory at Westpac stadium.
Wellington’s unbelievable win
“Without doubt,’’ Muscat told Fox Sports.
“We were down to 10 men for 85 (minutes), longer because there was quite a bit of extra-time in both halves and I don’t think (the Wellington) game was a reflection of what’s going to happen this season going forward.
“If anything, that spirit among the group to create those chances and be disciplined and limit them to very few opportunities. We’ll take the positives out of it.
“It was a difficult night under the circumstances, but the effort was tremendous and the discipline within the group to create those chances could’ve given us an extended lead. In the end the result wasn’t favourable for us.”
Victory is likely to beef-up their Asian Champions League squad by including a host of youth team players along with regular first-team squad members, winger Christian Theoharous, who was again an unused sub on Wednesday, and midfielder Josh Hope.