Melbourne Victory assistant coach Kevin Muscat has praised young defender Nick Ansell ahead of his biggest test yet against the Newcastle Jets on Friday.
Ansell – who has made just two Hyundai A-League appearances – has impressed at the back with his composure and skill on the ball.
And with Adrian Leijer and Mark Milligan suspended for the AAMI Park fixture against the Jets, the 18-year-old has suddenly become Victory's main man at the back.
Utility Leigh Broxham partnered Ansell in the heart of defence for large periods of Thursday's training session and appears likely to do so against the Jets, but with the former being just 169cm tall, the task of stopping former England and Liverpool forward Emile Heskey is set to fall to the youngster.
Heskey has scored six goals in 12 matches this season for the Jets and netted a double in their 2-1 win over Victory in October.
But Muscat is confident that Ansell can cope with the pressure of marking Heskey at AAMI Park.
"I think the fact that we are not speaking about him so much (negatively) and he hasn't been brought up says to me that he has done very well," Muscat told reporters after training on Thursday.
"(In) both games he has done very well for us and he has been very composed. Not only defensively but on the ball he has showed a lot of courage. He has played quite well for us."
Muscat refused to say Broxham would replace Leijer, even though it is likely, but confirmed Matthew Foschini and Jonathan Bru would come into the starting 11 for Diogo Ferreira (groin) and Milligan (suspension) respectively.
There were no excuses from Muscat though, despite the high-profile absentees, and he said he was positive that the club's inclusions would do a good job against a Jets side who have won just two of their past eight matches.
"Unfortunately we are missing a couple through suspension but the reality is everyone is going to have to use their squad over this period of time," he said.
"We have got a number of games and this gives an opportunity to a couple of the other boys. Is our depth going to be tested? Yes it is going to be.
"We have had to deal with players missing in the past through international duty. We have won without our boys being here that are in international teams. We are quite comfortable where we sit."
Muscat also revealed that Heracles Almelo and Socceroos defender Jason Davidson would spend some time training with the club on his winter break but that signing him was not a possibility at the moment.
"No, not at this stage, no," said Muscat when asked if he was joining Victory.
"He has got to go back to his club. He has come down. He is going to spend a week with us. He asked to come down and join in and we opened our doors to him and he's more than welcome.
"He is a very good kid and a talented footballer. We are accommodating and we are grateful that he decided that he wanted to come here and spend his winter break (at the club)."