Perth Glory have been hit with a fresh injury srisis with two of their biggest stars ruled out of their clash with Brisbane Roar, who are also sweating on the fitness of Thomas Broich.
Key Perth Glory duo Liam Miller and Shane Smeltz have been ruled out of Saturday's crucial Hyundai A-League match against Brisbane Roar but coach Ian Ferguson still fancies his side's chances.
Marquee striker Smeltz missed last week's 2-0 win against Newcastle after blood injection to fix an ongoing ankle complaint but hasn't recovered in time, while Miller is still battling a hamstring injury which forced him off early against the Jets.
Miller and Smeltz have been two of Perth's most important players in the run which has seen them win four of their past five games and give them a chance of making the top two.
Their absence for Saturday's game is a significant blow, given victory at nib Stadium would take third-placed Glory (34 points) within one point of the second-placed Roar, who have 38 from their 22 games.
But Ferguson said his team had strong depth and was confident of beating Brisbane without them, with Miller's place expected to be taken by Adam Hughes and Billy Mehmet to continue up front in Smeltz's absence.
"Liam will miss and so will Smeltzy. Liam is probably another week behind and Smeltzy is still feeling it a bit," he said.
"Possibly if we were going into the finals we could throw them in there in the deep end but we don't want to do that."
"Now we're in this phase where we've got five games to go I want to make sure everyone is fit and ready for the challenge when it comes."
Ferguson was optimistic both would be ready for the game against Adelaide United on March 1, although the coach's focus remained firmly on the fixture against the Roar.
He said the club had come a long way since their 4-0 thrashing to Brisbane in November and was adamant they would again put up a better showing, like they did in a 3-3 draw against the defending champions in early January.
"We were always watching what us underneath us and now we're looking at what's above us," he said.
"The last three or four games we've played at home have been outstanding. The way we've played, the amount of goals we've scored and the movement have been excellent."
While the loss of Miller and Smeltz will hurt, Brisbane have their own injury concern in key playmaker Thomas Broich, who has a shoulder complaint.
But Ferguson said the Roar would still present a massive challenge even if Broich is ruled out.
"They're not just a one-man band, they are a good team and they have got good players," he said.
"It's not just Broich, you've got [Mitch] Nichols and [Besart] Berisha there too."