Melbourne Victory boss Kevin Muscat has called on his players to make the most of a busy month ahead in the Hyundai A-League by being ready to perform when called upon.
Victory hosts Central Coast Mariners at AAMI Park on Wednesday night, followed by a clash with Newcastle Jets in Geelong on January 2.
Muscat's men then have another five matches in 19 days from January 7, including trips to Adelaide, Wellington and Perth.
"Performances have been good, some in the last couple of weeks have been exceptional," Muscat said.
"We've got to the point where there's good competition for places, the intensity at training (is high), everyone wants to play and make no mistake, everyone will be required.
"It's about making sure if you're not currently in the team, that you're prepared well for when you do get your opportunity to keep yourself in the team."
Mitch Austin is set to return for Victory after missing almost a month with an ankle injury, though Muscat said his place in the team was not guaranteed.
"Mitch is back now, he's training fully," Muscat said.
"He's missed just short of three weeks of training, so he's not anywhere near as sharp as he was before his injury.
"Unfortunately when these things happen, someone else gets an opportunity to play and therefore keep their place, and that's what's happened.
"There's some good competition for places and that's where we want to be at this time of year."
Victory and the Mariners will meet for the first time this season on Wednesday night. Tickets for the match are available here.
"Paul (Okon)'s done an exceptional job since he's taken over. They've adapted and changed a little bit to when he first got there," Muscat said.
"It's no disrespect, it's like every other game. We go in and expect to win."