Kean - returning Victory trio not certain to start as youngsters stake claim to take on Mariners

Melbourne Victory interim head coach Steve Kean says there's no guarantee his three stars returning from suspension will start against Central Coast Mariners on Sunday, May 2, after the impressive performances of players in their place last time out.

Victory lost 1-0 against Sydney FC in Matchweek 18 without Robbie Kruse, Callum McManaman and Jake Brimmer who all missed the Big Blue serving suspensions for an accumulation of yellow cards.

The lowly outfit put on an encouraging display against one of the Premiership favourites at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, with the likes of Lleyton Brooks and Jay Barnett injected into Kean's starting lineup to mitigate the loss of the three experienced players.

Brooks was particularly bright on the night, hitting the post in his side's best opportunity of the game while combining with Ben Folami to provide energy and spark in the final third.

It was the first start of the 20-year-old's A-League career after coming off the bench to score a late winner in Victory's 2-1 win over Newcastle Jets on April 10.

MATCH PREVIEW: Melbourne Victory v Central Coast Mariners

GOAL: Brooks - Youngster scores maiden A-League goal in dramatic fashion

The likes of Brooks, Barnett and Elvis Kamsoba - who replaced Brimmer, McManaman and Kruse in the Big Blue - are providing Kean a welcomed selection dilemma ahead of facing the Mariners at AAMI Park.

"We get players back - the lads that were not available through suspension," Kean said.

"But I think the good thing is the members and the fans will get a look at young Lleyton Brooks.

"He performed and (did) well, Jay Barnett came into the team and played well.

"We’re obviously missing Adama (Traore) at the moment but you see we can put (Leigh Broxham) in at left-back, he’s solid, and it shows us he can play in that position until we can get Adama back."

"Obviously as well we’ve got Elvis (who) deputised for Robbie Kruse and (did) well.

We’ve got competition for places which is important, with these three players coming back.

"Potentially, you’ve got quality players in Robbie Kruse, Brimmer and Callum McManaman so we’re just making sure they get through these next couple of days in training… and they’ll be back in contention.

"But the lads that did play (did) very well, so we’ll have a look at that."

LAST TIME OUT: Mariners 1-1 Victory

"With these games coming thick and fast we need competition for places," Kean added.

"We’ll need to make sure some players play one game and then maybe not the next, and make sure it’s the freshest team that can go and get the points.

"This is a good one for us, we know how they play.

"Looking at the weather it’s going to be a nice day so hopefully the supporters can come out and be that 12th man and cheer us on, and we get the points."

Kean will feel the Mariners are ripe for the picking after a disappointing 4-0 loss to Brisbane Roar last time out. Alen Stajcic's side led the league for the majority of the first half of the 2020/21 A-League campaign, but a four-game winless run allowed Melbourne City to swoop in and take top spot off the Gosford side.

Victory's devastating 7-0 loss to City in Matchweek 17 looked to have sapped all hope of scraping any semblance of positivity out of the current campaign, but Kean's takeover in the fallout has steadied the ship.

A win over Western Sydney Wanderers combined with a gallant performance in defeat against the Sky Blues ensures Victory welcome the Mariners with the intention of clinching three points against a title contender.

"We’re certainly not thinking about a point - we’re thinking about getting a win," Kean said.

"We have to just build on what we’ve been doing over the last two games... we need to continue to create the chances and the last little bit is that final pass.

"That’s what we touched on today in the session today - if we can get that final pass just with a little bit more quality, that can make it a little easier for us to get on the end of things if we do that.

I’m very confident we can get three points."

Central Coast Mariners; Melbourne Victory

Match details 

Melbourne Victory v Central Coast Mariners
Sunday, May 2 2021
Venue: AAMI Park
Kick-off: 4.05pm AEST 
Broadcast: Fox Sports 505
Stream: MyFootball Live App, Kayo Sports
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