Sky Blues ready to keep Kruse in control

Robbie Kruse raring to go for his first appearance since returning to the A-League with Victory.
Robbie Kruse raring to go for his first appearance since returning to the A-League with Victory.

Sydney FC captain Alex Wilkinson believes an underdone Robbie Kruse will still pose a serious threat should he make his A-League return in the Big Blue.

Kruse is likely to make his anticipated season debut in one of the league's biggest rivalries when Melbourne Victory visit the harbour city on Sunday.

The Socceroo has missed Melbourne's first five games due to a hamstring issue, but has been rushed back into a squad depleted by injury and players on international duty.

It will be Kruse's first A-League game since leaving the Victory in 2011.

"Obviously he's had a fantastic career overseas in Germany and a lot of success with the national team," Wilkinson told AAP.

"It's great to have him back in the league.

"He's obviously a dangerous player. He's got a lot of pace, great skills. He could score goals but he could also assist goals and lay on that final pass.

"How fit he is, I don't know. I don't know how many games he's played leading in.

"He's one we're going to have to watch, but we're not going to solely focus on him.

"You pay your opposition respect, but mostly it's about what we're going to do and how we're going to control the game."

Sky Blues coach Steve Corica confirmed defender Rhyan Grant will play just three days after punching out a full shift for the Socceroos in Jordan.

Andrew Redmayne was also in Saudi Arabia but was unused and will be fresh, while Michael Zullo returns from injury for his season debut.

The game also marks Sydney FC striker Kosta Barbarouses' first against his former club.

For the Victory, Kruse's inclusion somewhat offsets a side without Andrew Nabbout, Storm Roux, Kenny Athiu, Thomas Deng, and Elvis Kambosa.

The contest was originally pencilled in for Saturday but was brought forward 24 hours following an agreement between the two clubs.

Corica hit back at complaints made by Victory counterpart Marco Kurz, claiming the club had initially offered to postpone the game until Boxing Day.

"We gave them the option to change the game to December where both sets of teams would've had their full players all back," Corica said.

"And they declined that, so I can't understand why they did that.

"But obviously the way it's worked out now, we have our players back and he's complaining. I understand that as well. They did have the option to change."

The clash will be the first at Nestrata Jubilee Oval since the Sky Blues knocked Melbourne out at last year's semi-finals with a record 6-1 rout.

Half the ground was relaid when the Sky Blues trained there on Saturday.

STATS THAT MATTER

* Sydney FC have won their past two against the Victory, with their 6-1 hammering last-start the most they have scored against them in one game.

* Sydney FC have had the most big scoring chances of any A-League team this season with 15, although they have converted on just four.

Australian Associated Press