Melbourne City coach Warren Joyce has left the door ajar for star striker Bruno Fornaroli to make his much-anticipated return in the blockbuster clash against ladder leaders Sydney FC.
Fornaroli hasn't featured this season after he injured an ankle in an FFA Cup match in August and underwent surgery.
But he has ramped up his rehabilitation in recent weeks, playing around 70 minutes and finding the net in a friendly against Chinese side Guangzhou R&F this week.
The Uruguayan wasn't named in the initial squad for Saturday night's clash at AAMI Park, but Joyce didn't rule out a late call up for the striker when he spoke to reporters on Friday.
"We just look at Bruno on a day-to-day basis ... monitoring his pain and monitoring his loads," Joyce said.
"Some days he comes in better than others.
"He had an injection last Thursday and it seems to have helped him a little bit ... he's had less pain this week.
"He's worked his socks off, his general base fitness is probably as good as it was last year, it's just the sharpness and measuring the pain."
While Joyce wouldn't be drawn on the exact date of Fornaroli's return, he moved to temper expectations of the golden boot winner, some of which he labelled "unrealistic and unfair".
Fornaroli's inclusion would be a huge boost for City as they prepare for a visit from the all-conquering Blues.
Graham Arnold's men are nine points clear on top of the A-League ladder and suffered their only loss of the season in November.
The Blues have beaten City in their two previous meetings this season, but Joyce's men are unbeaten in their past six matches, which has elevated them to third on the ladder.
"Our last game (against Sydney) I think we should have gotten more out of it," captain Michael Jakobsen said of the 3-1 loss at Allianz Stadium.
"I think we dominated that game, so I was quite disappointed after the match.
"They're a team we need to beat if we want to be on top at the end of the season
"It's going to be a good test."
Australian Associated Press