The depth of the Wellington Phoenix will be severely tested after key midfielder Albert Riera suffered a suspected groin tear at training yesterday.
Riera has been nursing a tight groin for most of the season, yet in his debut A-League campaign has emerged as arguably the Phoenix's most important player.
Disappointed Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick said Riera would be assessed today ahead of tomorrow's visit to the Newcastle Jets.
But the Spanish import is likely to be sidelined for 4-6 weeks.
"It could be [several weeks], yeah," Merrick said.
"Deep groin muscles aren't good to deal with so it could be a little while before he's back . . . it doesn't look good. He's been outstanding. It is sad because he's been playing very well, he's been running the show, he's turned out to be one of the best middle midfielders in the league."
If Riera is ruled out, Alex Rufer willhis place in join today's travelling squad.
The Phoenix are already without the injured Paul Ifill, Louis Fenton and Leo Bertos, while Kenny Cunningham and Michael Boxall are suspended for the match.
Uncapped fullback Josh Brindell-South appears set to edge Reece Caira for Boxall's spot, while Matthew Ridenton and Jason Hicks are the frontrunners to come in for Riera and Cunningham.
The in-form Vince Lia is likely to move into Riera's vital role of screening the back four.
"It's a leadership role," Merrick said.
"Vince Lia and Carlos Hernandez have got to step up because we've lost Kenny who's an experienced international player as well. So it's leadership in the midfield and under pressure you soon discover who your leaders are and who are not."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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