Skipper Andrew Durante will have to be at 100 per cent fitness to earn a start for Wellington Phoenix in Saturday's A-League clash against Brisbane Roar, coach Darije Kalezic says.
The 269-match veteran defender is poised to make an earlier-than-expected return from a groin injury as the Phoenix hunt their first win of the season at Westpac Stadium.
Durante injured his adductor in the Nix's 3-2 loss to Sydney FC on October 15, and was initially expected to be out for between eight to 12 weeks.
However, a second opinion from an Auckland specialist, coupled with steady improvement in training, has boosted the 35-year-old's chances of an early comeback.
But while his return would be a huge boost, given the absence of injured Italian defender Marco Rossi, Kalezic said Durante needed to be at 100 per cent to make the match-day squad.
"I need everybody as a coach, but I think the player's health is in the first place most important.
"If he feels 100 per cent, only then is he useful for the team. If he's not, then I'm going to play a player who is 100 per cent."
Kalezic said Wellington's approach to Saturday's game would be simple, with the focus on creating then converting chances.
"The plan is to play how we train, to express our identity, to be dominant and have the ball as much as possible in our possession."
In last week's 1-0 loss to Melbourne City, he said, the Phoenix dominated but paid the price for poor finishing when Scottish striker Ross McCormack's 69th minute free kick broke the deadlock.
"We have to be more dangerous in the front third, create more chances."
Wellington, eighth on the ladder, will be boosted by the return of midfielder Gui Finkler against the winless Brisbane Roar.
But Kalezic says his team will be wary of the 10th-placed Roar, who will be missing left back Corey Brown and Danish midfielder Thomas Kristensen, both to hamstring injuries.
"They have a lot of experienced players, many players with quality," he said.
"That means they can be dangerous, they can make a good move or decide the game from nothing - that is the Brisbane that I have seen in the last three games."
STATS THAT MATTER
* Brisbane have won three of their last five games against Wellington, losing only one
* Wellington Phoenix are undefeated in their last four games at home
* Brisbane Roar have lost their last four games away from home, their longest ever losing streak on the road.