Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat says new signing Fahid Ben Khalfallah will play in the club's season opener this Friday night against Western Sydney Wanderers FC at Etihad Stadium.
Making things difficult for the Victory is the absence of four players on international duty.
Captain Mark Milligan is away with the Socceroos, while Scott Galloway, Dylan Murnane and Jordan Brown are with the Young Socceroos.
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But Khalfallah will "most definitely" play a part despite not yet being at the fitness levels Muscat would like and need.
"He's fit. He's been training. He spent the majority of pre-season at Bordeaux," Muscat said at Tuesday's Hyundai A-League launch.
"But what's the definition of fitness? Is he as fit as the other boys who have been here for three months? Probably not.
"We train for our conditioning based on how we want to play and what sort of style we play so is he fit from that perspective? Probably not. In general, he's fit and healthy."
And Muscat insists there will be improvement in defensive desire and structure from his team this season.
Muscat's side were exciting in an attacking sense but conceded 43 goals during the regular A-League season before losing in the semi-finals in 2013-14.
Only Wellington Phoenix (51) conceded more goals, and the Victory have strengthened at the back through the signings of Matthieu Delpierre and Daniel Georgievski, while Carl Valeri will slot into defensive midfield.
Speaking at the Hyundai A-League season launch on Tuesday, Muscat said the structure and desire had improved in pre-season.
"I don't think it was too much in those transition moments when we were losing the ball. I think our general structure, our desire to defend has got to be a lot better than it was. We've worked on that," Muscat said.
"Defending is from the front, it starts there and finishes with the goalkeeper. We've put some work into that.
"We've tried to create an environment where there's a certain amount of accountability and that structure, whether it's with the ball, without the ball, or in transition moments.
"There's got to be a certain amount of accountability and to enhance that, we've tried to create a serious competition for places.
"The accountability has to be that a serious contender is waiting which will force you into a certain amount of accountability in your role."
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