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Everton fringe players' chance

Everton
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Leijer fitness boosts battling Victory

A small ray of light has emerged from Melbourne Victory's disastrous A-League loss to Adelaide United, with news that Adrian Leijer will not join fellow defender Kevin Muscat on the sidelines.

Leijer did not return to the field after halftime of Sunday's 4-1 rout at AAMI Park, having experienced groin tightness.

With initial uncertainty over the extent of the injury and captain Kevin Muscat facing a mandatory one-match ban after being sent off, Victory risked having the heart ripped out of their defence.

But on Monday the club said there was no tear to Leijer's groin and he was in no doubt for what has become a crucial encounter with Sydney FC at Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday night.

His fitness is vital, given fellow defender Surhat Sukha is still sidelined with a calf injury, while Matthew Kemp was left out of the Adelaide match with a groin strain, and is in doubt for Saturday night's game.

Victory are also still without star strikers Archie Thompson (hamstring) and Robbie Kruse (Socceroos), with coach Ernie Merrick citing the unavailability of key players as central to the club's sudden form slump.

Melbourne had won four straight games, before falling 2-0 to Wellington Phoenix last Wednesday night, then being thrashed by Adelaide.

Those defeats have put their top six berth under threat, with fifth-placed Victory now only three points clear of the seventh-placed Phoenix and four clear of eighth-placed Newcastle Jets, who have two games in hand.

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