Perth Glory coach Ian Ferguson will take a cautious approach with skilful winger Ryo Nagai after the Japanese youth international produced a dazzling display on his starting debut Western Sydney Wanderers last week.
Nagai, 21, had limited game time for Glory's youth team on his return from a knee injury but played the full game in the 1-1 draw at Patersons Stadium, wowing fans with his sublime first touch and trickery on the flank.
It was first A-League start for Glory after injuries limited him to just one appearance as a substitute in the opening three months of the season.
Ferguson is employing a rotation policy during the busy festive schedule and hinted Nagai could be on the bench for tomorrow's clash with league leaders Central Coast at Bluetongue Stadium.
"He's fine at the moment but we need to be very careful with Ryo," Ferguson said.
"He got his hamstring injury in the pre-season when we played two games in quick succession and he's only just come back now from youth team games, where the most he's played is 60 minutes.
"He got 90 minutes the other night (against Western Sydney) so we need to be careful with how we're going to use him or if we're going to start him.
"It's a 50-50 at this moment, but I won't say too much."
Ferguson was weighing up his options to cover the loss of injured centre-half Michael Thwaite, who has been ruled out for 3-4 weeks with a torn right calf muscle.
Steve Pantelidis is the likely replacement and would feel comfortable alongside Bas van den Brink, whom he partnered in the centre of defence for much of last season, though the versatile Dean Heffernan is another player capable of filling the role.
Glory will take heart from Sydney's 1-0 win over Central Coast last week, which was only the Mariners' second defeat of the season.
The Mariners also have three key players - captain John Hutchinson, Socceroos young gun Tom Rogic and A-League leading scorer Daniel McBreen - out through suspension.
But Ferguson dismissed the suggestion that it was a good time to take on the championship favourites.
"They're a very strong side no matter who they put out there," Ferguson said.
"They can easily bring in Adriano Pellegrino or Mile Sterjovski for instance and you know they're good players who are going to give you everything."
Travis Dodd has overcome a minor knee injury and was included in the Glory squad that left Perth today.