Kevin Muscat has launched an impassioned defence of Kosta Barbarouses, who was the target of abuse from some Melbourne Victory supporters during the 2-1 loss to Perth Glory.
But despite the former Brisbane Roar flyer enduring a slight downturn in form of late, the Victory coach rejected out of hand calls for the winger to be dropped.
“It’s ridiculous to even suggest,” he said.
“One thing’s for sure, he’s a very talented footballer and gets a lot of attention. Up until this point he’s probably been the best wide player in the competition. From my perspective (he’s under) no pressure whatsoever.”
Asked if he was disappointed with the fans for turning on a player who lit up the early rounds of the season, Muscat said: “All I can express is how I feel. If you had to pick a team at this point in time, he’d be stuck on the right wing for the best XI in the competition.”
Seeking to bounce back from their defeat at the hands of the league leaders, Victory travel to face winless Western Sydney in Parramatta on Tuesday night.
Veteran forward Archie Thompson is set to be rested, with Fahid Ben Khalfallah, available again after suspension, to make an immediate return to the first team.
“Archie’s pulled up a little bit sore,” Muscat said.
“He won’t start. Fahid’ll come in. He adds a lot of threat for us in the final third.”
Midfielder Rashid Mahazi and fullback Daniel Georgievski are both pushing for a return after regaining full fitness.
It remains to be seen if either will be deployed against Tony Popovic’s Wanderers, who were described by Muscat as a ‘wounded animal’.
Quizzed on whether or not the Asian champions’ struggles had come as a surprise, Muscat said: “From the outside, certainly.
“That run that they had would have taken a lot out of them,” he added, referring to their improbably AFC Champions League success.
“In a lot of their games they’ve been unlucky. We know we’ll have to turn up and play very well.”