Leigh Broxham of Melbourne Victory is likely to face... Photo: Getty Images
IT COULD be one of the most unlikely match-ups in A-League history: pint-sized Leigh Broxham is poised to line up on man mountain Emile Heskey as a makeshift central defender when injury-hit Melbourne Victory faces the Newcastle Jets at AAMI Park on Friday night.
Victory coach Ange Postecoglou and assistant Kevin Muscat, who has been in charge this week as his boss takes time off for family reasons, are thinking outside the square as the club seeks to cover its injury and suspension crisis with a major reshuffle.
Captain and centre-half Adrian Leijer is out through suspension after picking up another yellow card in the derby win over Melbourne Heart. Mark Milligan, who would have played in Leijer's position (having spent most of the season in midfield) is also missing, having picked up a two-game ban for punching Heart's Jonathan Germano.
... Emile Heskey of the Newcastle Jets. Photo: Getty Images
Diogo Ferreira, who has been used in recent games at right-back, is another absentee. The youngster went off with a groin injury during the derby and has not recovered.
So with Broxham, who stands a mere 169 centimetres, poised to play alongside Nick Ansell, a teenager with just two games behind him, it's fair to say that Victory's central defence takes on a very experimental look, especially when pitted against former England centre forward Heskey, whose size, strength and power always makes him a difficult opponent, least of all for one as young as Ansell or giving away as much height as Broxham.
The midfielder, who normally plays a ball-winning role, has been used in the centre of defence before but usually as part of a reshuffle during games. Muscat said that no final decision had been made, but Broxham was employed at the centre of the defence in a training set-up at AAMI Park on Thursday morning.
Matthew Foschini is another who could play in the middle, but the former first-choice right-back is more likely to come in to his old position as a straight replacement for Diogo.
With Milligan, who has been such an important component of Victory's line-up, missing, import Jonathan Bru gets another chance to prove his worth in the holding midfield role. Bru was a first-choice player at the start of the season but has struggled for form.
Muscat says Victory is not concerned about the missing players, suggesting it gives the club the chance to show the strength of its entire squad.
''We are just going to have to deal with it. It gives an opportunity to someone else. Our depth will be tested, but we have missed players in the past through international duty and we have won matches,'' Muscat said.
He was full of praise for Ansell, who has done little wrong during this short stint in the first team.
''The fact that we are not speaking about him says he has done very well in both his games. He has been very composed, showed a lot of courage,'' Muscat said.
There would be no slacking off after the euphoria of the dramatic derby victory, Muscat stressed.
Socceroo defender Jason Davidson is training with Victory during the winter break from his Dutch club Heracles.