Jets coach Ernie Merrick will have a full squad to choose from for Wednesday’s FFA Cup opener against Adelaide after defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley received an international clearance.
The United Arab Emirates FA finally completed paperwork to release Topor-Stanley from Hatta late on Monday night, two months after he rejoined the Jets.
The veteran will join Nigel Boogaard in the centre of defence against a Reds side who scored a league-worst 25 goals last season, and Merrick said he was expecting a sharp improvement from a back four also boasting new signing Daniel Georgievski and Jason Hoffman.
“I don’t think we’re going to concede anything like the number of goals we conceded last year, given it was 53,” Merrick said on Tuesday.
His squad were “probably ahead of where I thought they’d be” and he was not panicking about signing a marquee attacking player.
“To know that we only need a quality attacking player is a good position to be in this far out. It’s probably the furthest along I’ve been in a long time with a club.
“There’s two or three more that we’re really keen on that we’re following up on. We’ve got plenty of time to get it right, and if it happens the week before the season starts, that’s fine as well.”
Merrick hinted Ben Kantarovski would join fit-again Steven Ugarkovic in midfield against Adelaide, and teenagers Mario Shabow and Kosta Petratos would be on the bench.
“I feel we’ve got a squad that’s really competitive, and Adelaide’s going to be no pushover. They’re in a similar situation, new coach, new formation probably, new players coming into the team.”
The Reds, who lost gun midfielder Riley McGree to Club Brugge in the off-season, beat South Australian NPL side Adelaide Comets 4-0 a week ago.
New Danish winger Johan Absalonsen scored on debut and looked a handful down the left flank, although German coach Marco Kurz said later that his young side were a work in progress.
Adelaide signed former Wellington Phoenix veteran Vince Lia last week to add experience to a squad featuring youngsters Jordan O'Doherty, George Blackwood, Paul Izzo, Ben Garrucio, Ben Warland, Nathan Konstandopoulos, Mark Ochieng, Lachlan Brook and Ryan Kitto.
It is understood Lia and new centre back Ersan Gulum, a Turkish international on loan from Hebei China Fortune, will not play on Wednesday and striker Baba Diawara will be on the bench.
The game will be streamed live on the Fox Sports website from 7.30pm.