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Victory confident depth can cover losses

Melbourne Victory say they welcome a test of depth which is set to pit an inexperienced central defensive pairing against star A-League import Emile Heskey.

Former England striker Heskey will lead Newcastle Jets at AAMI Park on Friday night against a Victory side forced to make three defensive changes.

Suspended duo Adrian Leijer and Mark Milligan rob the Victory of their most obvious options to combat Heskey, who scored twice against them earlier in the season.

Instead teenage defender Nick Ansell will confront Heskey in just his third A-League match, with utility player Leigh Broxham most likely to slot in alongside him.

Broxham, most comfortable in midfield, spent the majority of the Victory's match-eve training session playing there, though 20-year-old regular centre-half Petar Franjic would appear the straightest swap for Leijer.

Assistant coach Kevin Muscat says Mauritian international Jonathan Bru will replace Milligan in a holding midfield role, while Matthew Foschini will deputise for injured right-back Diogo Ferreira.

But Muscat, who took training on Thursday as head coach Ange Postecoglou attended a family funeral, says who steps in next to the impressive Ansell is yet to be determined.

"It's not cemented yet. There's been a couple of combinations tested throughout the week," Muscat said.

"Everyone's got something to offer. We just keep working away, trying to find the right combination for us.

"Is our depth going to be tested? Yes. But we've had to deal with players being away in the past, and we've won with our players in international teams, so we're quite comfortable with where we sit."

Second-placed Adelaide United's 1-0 Boxing Day loss to the Roar gives the Victory a huge chance of closing the gap to the top two.

The Jets beat Sydney FC last weekend to snap a horror run of form.

Jets midfielder and captain Jobe Wheelhouse is on track to return from a knee injury which has sidelined him for the past three weeks against the Victory.


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