Japanese import Ryo Nagai is poised to make his Perth Glory debut against Central Coast Mariners at Bluetongue Stadium on Sunday after being elevated to the match day squad.
Nagai, who has signed on loan from Cerezo Osaka, has recovered from a hamstring problem and will take his place on the bench after missing last weekend’s 1-0 win over Brisbane Roar.
Coach Ian Ferguson said the 21-year-old had shown good signs in training and could provide a spark off the bench.
“He’s quite mobile, he’s quick, he’s got good feet and he can play left or right,” Ferguson said. “As we’ve seen in training, he’s got a lot to offer.”
Ferguson will make one change to the starting line-up, promoting last weekend’s goal scorer Billy Mehmet in the absence of Shane Smeltz.
Glory’s star striker is on international duty with New Zealand, who take on Tahiti in a World Cup qualifier tomorrow.
“Smeltzy will be more of a goalscorer and Billy’s more of a target man (who can) hold it up for us and get the midfield support,” Ferguson said. “Billy is quite a big powerful boy who can put his head in where it hurts.”
Mehmet rose to the occasion last weekend when he took just minutes to head home Glory’s late winner.
But despite the change of personnel at the top of the formation, Ferguson had no plans to change Glory’s approach against the Mariners, who topped the league table last season.
“We’ll try and play the same style of football we played against Brisbane,” he said. “We want to be attacking and entertaining and hopefully we can get some goals.”
Glory’s last encounter with the Mariners — last season’s preliminary final — ended in a 1-1 draw but the WA side survived a nerve racking penalty shoot-out to reach the grand final.
Ferguson said that victory, and a 1-0 win over Central Coast in March, had given the team confidence after years struggling for results against the Mariners
“The last two times we’ve played them we’ve actually done very well,” he said. “We beat them here at nib and then we went over there and got a draw and obviously we won through the penalties, so we’ll be taking confidence in.”
The Glory coach emphasised the importance of his side taking physical control of the contest against a tough opponent.
“I’ve always said you go out and win the battle first before the football’s played and hopefully we can do that,” he said.