Melbourne City coach Michael Valkanis has called Friday night's visit of Adelaide United their 'grand final' and have wrapped Michael Jakobsen in cotton wool in a last-gasp attempt to have their prized defender fit for the A-League finals.
The Danish centre-back has missed two months of football after suffering a calf injury that was originally mooted as a one-week absence.
Setbacks on the training track and in the recovery room have blown out Jakobsen's return, frustrating caretaker coach Michael Valkanis and hurting the team.
On Thursday, once more, the 31-year-old failed to train with the main group, heightening fears he may be seen again this season.
Valkanis agreed it would be hard for Jakobsen to return to the team on the eve of the finals if he didn't present well for Adelaide United's visit on Friday night.
"He knows he needs to get these two games under his belt," Valkanis said of City's last two regular season matches.
"Previously we were very, very confident and at the last minute he pulled out.
"Playing will be about getting match fitness as well and getting prepared for finals football.
"But he's in the squad. You can see me smiling. I'm very happy.
"We're very happy with the way he's done the last two weeks of training and he's in the squad."
Valkanis said no one at City misunderstood the significance of the Reds match, City's last home game as they look to secure a home final.
"It's finals football on our doorstep. It's a grand final," he said.
"It's a very important game against a tricky team that can play really good football. We need to stamp our authority at home."
Should Jakobsen be passed fit, he will replace Ruon Tongyik in the heart of City's defence as the young stopper is ill.
Valkanis said Neil Kilkenny was fit to resume after a one-week layoff with a lower back complaint, while Osama Malik is back after suspension.
Friday's match will also see the world-first introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).
In the corresponding fixture earlier this year, which Adelaide won 2-1, Valkanis fumed when Nicolas Colazo's goal was incorrectly ruled out for offside - a decision that VAR would have overturned.
Despite that, Valkanis was lukewarm on the technological help being afforded to the referees.
"They seem to have it under control but always something new might bring up some problems," he said.
"If it's going to help improve the game so be it, fantastic. It's a trial and hopefully it all goes well."
Adelaide have been boosted by the return of Iacopo La Rocca after a hip injury.
STATS THAT MATTER
* Look for a stop-start game. City (433) and United (395) have been fouled more than any other A-League clubs.
* The Reds have the wood over City of late with three wins in their past four meetings.
* Bruno Fornaroli (17) is one goal behind Besart Berisha and Jamie Maclaren (18) in the race for the golden boot.