Kevin Muscat has stood by his decision to recruit Tom Rogic as Melbourne Victory prepare to face Guangzhou Evergrande without the Socceroo due to a nagging groin injury.
Rogic, 21, joined Victory from Celtic on loan in January to much fanfare, but has started only seven matches in almost four months.
In his last outing he was forced off with a recurrence of a groin problem in the first half of his team's 2-2 draw away to Newcastle Jets on April 5.
Addressing the media on Monday, the Victory coach indicated that centre-back Pablo Contreras is close to a return to action, with the outlook less positive for Rogic.
"He has trained," Muscat said.
"Not at the same level as Pablo at the moment. He's a little bit behind Pablo, it's going to take him a little bit longer."
When asked if he deemed the decision to pursue Rogic to be a success, Muscat said: "Let's wait till we get to the back end of it.
"Coming here, the period that he did get here, it's been difficult for him. We knew there was a number of factors that were going to contribute to that and how much football he'd play.
"But it's certainly been really good to have him Tom here. And in hindsight I certainly wouldn't have changed (my mind). I'd have still got him here, he's been really good for us."
With playmaker Guilherme Finkler ineligible, Rogic's continuing absence is a blow to Victory's hopes of earning a positive result against Evergrande at Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night.
Skipper Mark Milligan is well acquainted with the best Asian football has to offer after spells with Shanghai Shenhua and JEF United Chiba.
The Socceroo midfielder believes this Evergrande outfit, who came from 2-0 down at half-time to blow Victory away en route to a 4-2 win on matchday one, are one of the best opponents he has encountered at club level.
"It was the first game that I'd played against a Chinese side since I'd been there," he said.
"Not only (do) they have extremely talented players there, but the discipline of that team that they showed, especially that night against us in the second half, was something I hadn't experienced before against a Chinese side playing over there.
"I think that's probably the biggest difference. Obviously they're very talented but the amount of discipline and structure they showed to come back into that match was something I hadn't seen in a club side in China."
Milligan's glowing review of Evergrande demonstrates the scale of task facing Victory, who realistically need to win if they are to progress to the knockout stages, but must also take into consideration their A-League elimination final against arch-rivals Sydney FC on Friday night.