Kevin Muscat has confirmed fit-again centre-back Matthieu Delpierre will start Saturday's crunch game with Perth Glory as Melbourne Victory seek to tighten up at the back.
The veteran Frenchman, a late substitute in the 3-2 loss at home to Wellington Phoenix last Sunday, had been out since October, first with a minor hamstring problem and then a long-running foot issue.
The 33-year-old will be a welcome inclusion to a backline that has conceded three goals on three separate occasions in the last four matches, including their previous meeting with this weekend's opponents.
Preview: Melbourne Victory v Perth Glory
"We'll start him tomorrow," Muscat said when quizzed on the former Stuttgart man's availability.
"He's eased his way back in. Someone of his quality, it's not as if we're rushing him back in. I think we've been pretty good with the timing and he feels good.
"He's got a big presence. More than anything he's a good footballer. We've got to careful and not set the expectations too high. He has been out for a length of time. But he's in good nick and he's a very good footballer."
While the focus this week has been on a potentially decisive showdown between league leaders Glory and second-placed Victory at AAMI Park, Muscat also offered an update on Fahid Ben Khalfallah's future.
The French-born Tunisia international has impressed greatly on the left-flank for Victory this season, keeping fan favourite Archie Thompson and promising youngster Connor Pain out of the starting XI.
Having joined on a one-year deal in 2014, the 32-year-old would be free to speak to other clubs about a potential free transfer, but Muscat confirmed the Big V are pushing to retain the ex-Bordeaux star.
"We want to keep Fahid at the football club," he said.
"Fahid wants to stay at the football club. So hopefully a resolution will come to fruition in the near future. Well before the finals."