Melbourne Heart look certain to head to the transfer market to cover the loss of Brazilian playmaker Fred as they head into Sunday's A-League clash with Perth Glory minus an obvious replacement.
The A-League transfer window opens on Tuesday and coach John van 't Schip admitted replacing Fred, who will be missing for at least six weeks after aggravating a groin injury, was top priority.
A permanent signing or a short-term injury replacement player could be options.
"We're looking at every kind of solution, so we look to replace Fred for the period that we know he's going to be out," van 't Schip said.
"If you look overseas ... it's going to take already two, three, four weeks, so at that time Fred maybe already is going to be back.
"So if we look for a replacement, it will be here (within Australia)."
It won't solve the immediate problem facing the Heart - an adequate central midfield replacement for their most influential player for the Glory match at AAMI Park.
The situation is made worse with Heart midfielder Wayne Srhoj set to miss the Glory game because of his lingering quadriceps injury, and doubts still over the fitness of Argentine Jonatan Germano.
Germano's suspect hamstring may mean he comes off the bench against the Glory.
But he remains in the frame - and probably the most clear-cut option - to go straight into the starting line-up to cover Fred's workrate and range of passing.
On Sunday Heart goalkeeper Clint Bolton will move to No.2 on the all-time list of Australian national soccer league appearances when he lines up for his 453rd match, overtaking former South Melbourne legend Paul Trimboli.
Only Alex Tobin, with 522 top-flight Australian games, is ahead of the 36-year-old keeper.
The Glory, who produced a surprise and gritty 1-0 win over Wellington in New Zealand last weekend, have a difficult road schedule with two matches in four days on the east coast.
After taking on the third-placed Heart, Perth play Sydney FC in Campbelltown on Wednesday night.
Defender Bas van den Brink, one of the Glory's best this season, is expected to return from a hamstring injury against the Heart as Perth eye a place in the top six.