Queensland Roar's minor premiership hopes have taken a jolt with veterans Danny Tiatto and Josh McCloughan ruled out of the pivotal A-League clash with Adelaide United.
A double injury blow has forced both Tiatto and McCloughan out of Wednesday night's match at Hindmarsh Stadium, but that has still not been enough to earn wayward youngster Robbie Kruse a recall.
Coach Frank Farina on Monday added Kruse to an extended 17-man squad but denied the 20-year-old would start and couldn't guarantee him a place on the bench.
Farina instead promoted defenders Hyuk Su-Seo and Andy Packer from the bench in a sure sign he will revert to a four-man back line against the competition leaders.
The Roar have started with three men at the back in recent matches but were exposed early in their entertaining 4-3 win over Central Coast in Gosford on Saturday.
The victory moved Queensland back to third spot on the ladder with 29 points and another win over the Reds would put them equal with Melbourne (32) and a point from Adelaide (33).
"It was a fantastic result on the weekend and it's put us in a situation now if we can win in Adelaide against Adelaide we've got a shot at the minor premiership," Farina said. "There's a big carrot there.
"This will be the game that will either set us up to win the premiership or battle for second spot."
Last season's wonderkid Kruse, though, will play a limited role at best despite a solid 90 minutes in the Roar youth team's 3-0 victory in Gosford.
Off-field ill-discipline, including two late-night fights, and injuries have kept Kruse to just 59 minutes of A-League action in two starts this season.
A tough-talking Farina didn't hide his disappointment about Kruse's misdemeanours when asked whether the youngster had the chance to play his way back into the team and keep his contract.
"Yeah, and earn the money we've been paying him this year," he said.
"If he's lucky enough to be in the 15 he's got to give his best and do something for us.
"Robbie's had a few problems and a few issues and his football's suffered for it.
"To make mistakes is human but to continue to do it is stupid.
"And while he's here I'll give him a clip across the ear every time he steps out of line."
Although the Roar have conceded seven goals in their last three matches, with most due to simple errors, Farina remains unfazed.
"You're going to concede goals particularly at this stage of the year when everyone's battling to get into the four, so now it's not a concern," he said.