City, Victory derby mind games
FOOTBALL: It would be Melbourne City's Christmas miracle if Ross McCormack lines up in Saturday night's A-League derby at AAMI Park.
But as Warren Joyce and Kevin Muscat both tried to create selection doubt, City coach Joyce all but conceded McCormack's name had been left in his extended squad for appearances only.
Melbourne Victory midfielder Mark Milligan has been declared fit to return from a hamstring injury, but Muscat ruled vice-captain Leigh Broxham out with injury.
McCormack hurt his knee in last Friday's loss to Sydney and it was initially feared the Scottish striker may require a reconstruction.
That he is even being talked about as a remote chance of playing is a positive in itself and that, Joyce said, is the main story.
"Fortunately it's nowhere near as bad as we thought," Joyce said.
"He's done little bits of stuff this week, so we'll just see how he is.
"But it's a massive plus (regardless of whether he plays or not) considering we were coming back last week thinking maybe his season was over."
There are other fun and games in regards to City's squad, with Joyce insisting Bruce Kamau was available to return from a knee injury despite not being named on Thursday.
And while Muscat was more definitive about Broxham not playing and Milligan's return to the team, just how he aligns his side remains a mystery.
Previous experience would see youngster Stefan Nigro playing at left back in Broxham's place, with Milligan replacing Matias Sanchez in midfield.
And while that is still likely to be the case, Muscat intimated he was thinking about playing Milligan in the centre of defence, as he has done many times for the Socceroos recently, which would see Thomas Deng shift to the left.
"When called on this season Stef has responded and performed really well," Muscat said.
"Thomas Deng also played at left back in the first game of the season and he did very well there.
"Which way we go we'll decide tomorrow afternoon. There's a couple of options."
If McCormack doesn't play then Kamau, Braedyn Crowley, Nick Fitzgerald, Daniel Arzani and Nathanial Atkinson are all options to play as a makeshift striker.
Another is marquee midfielder Marcin Budzinski, who has failed to fire so far in Melbourne aside from scoring the opener in the last derby.
Joyce defended the Pole's progress, but added: "He's had opportunities to start in some games. It's time now to perform and do it at your maximum."