Melbourne Victory coach Tony Popovic is tempted by the proposition of starting Chris Ikonomidis against the Western Sydney Wanderers, as he faces an attacking selection dilemma going into Saturday night’s contest.
Ikonomidis backed up solid pre-season form with a match-winning performance off the bench in Victory’s 3-2 win over Sydney FC, scoring and setting-up his side’s second and third goal.
However, he currently finds himself behind the likes of Ben Folami and Luis Nani in the pecking order, with the duo currently occupying the wings ahead of the 17-time capped Socceroo – while Jake Brimmer and Nick D’Agostino respectively have etched themselves into the starting attacking midfield and striker positions.
Popovic declared on Friday morning that Ikonomidis’ form does create extra food for thought when he puts together his starting lineup against the Wanderers.
“I think it always gives you something to think about. And as a coach you want that,” Popovic said.
“We know how talented Chris is and we expect that type of performance from him. I’m glad he produced it. He’s had a very good preseason and it was tough decision before the game and I’m sure it will be another one this week.”
Ikonomidis struggled for minutes in his first-season at the club, falling behind the likes of Marco Rojas and Folami in the depth chart and only scoring the one goal in all competitions in Victory’s FFA Cup final win over Central Coast Mariners.
As a result, the 27-year-old had been somewhat forgotten in the mix of Victory’s already high-calibre front-line, particularly with the arrival of Nani and the emergence of Folami into a fringe Socceroo.
“Maybe. Maybe yes,” Popovic said when asked if he’s been forgotten among Victory’s attacking options.
“He didn’t score a goal last year in the A-Leagues. He played his part last year but not as regularly starting with the minutes that he would have liked or we would have liked.
“He certainly, his talent hasn’t wavered and now his body is in fantastic shape and he’s starting to remind me of the Chris that I remember from Wanderers and the time I had him at Perth; really confident and dynamic. And I’m sure that will just keep building throughout the year.”
Victory will be without defensive duo Jason Geria and Matt Spiranovic again tomorrow, while new signing Tomi Juric continues to build up his fitness from a leg issue.
Popovic said Juric is “close” to returning and could feature in the Melbourne Derby next Saturday, while they’re taking a more patient approach with Spiranovic’s return to the side but Geria looks set to be out for a little while longer as he battles a hip issue.