Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic says he hopes former Socceroos team-mate Harry Kewell makes his long-awaited return from injury for Melbourne Heart at Parramatta Stadium on Saturday night.
Kewell suffered a neck injury in the season opener against Melbourne Victory and twisted his ankle in training last month just as he was set to return.
He failed to return for last Sunday's 3-3 draw with Adelaide United but is in the frame to feature against Popovic's second-placed Wanderers this weekend.
"I hope he does come back, he's a great player and he's certainly desperate to get back on the park and it's great for the league to have him here," Popovic said at Wanderers training on Wednesday.
"If it is this week great, we welcome him, and we certainly wish him a good game but without the result."
Popovic also backed besieged Heart coach John Aloisi to lead his winless side off the bottom of the A-League ladder in the coming weeks.
"He's a winner, he's been a proven winner throughout his career as a footballer and you can see those traits in him and on the weekend you can see his passion and drive and that'll put him in good stead," he said.
"I'm sure he'll work extremely hard to get things right at that club and I hope he does, but not this weekend, I hope it starts after this weekend."
The Wanderers are searching for their first victory in three games after a 3-1 loss to Brisbane and a 0-0 draw with Wellington Phoenix in their past two starts.
Popovic is sweating on the fitness of marquee man Shinji Ono as well as three other players – Brendon Santalab, Jerome Polenz and Tomi Juric – who are all in doubt for the clash through injury.
The coach will give the star midfielder until Friday to prove he has overcome the groin injury that saw him miss the Phoenix clash.
"He's training with the group today which is a great sign for us that he can do that now," Popovic said ahead of training on Wednesday.
"Then it's a matter of seeing how his body is and how sharp he is leading into the game."
Santalab, Polenz and Juric also trained and are in the frame to return.
Asked if he is expecting a desperate performance from the Heart as they look for their maiden win of the campaign, Popovic replied: "I'm sure they'll be fired up but we haven't seen a team not fired up at Parramatta Stadium yet.
"Everyone that comes there plays in front of a very boisterous crowd and as an opposing team and player you look forward to those games.
"So we expect, whether it's Melbourne Heart or anyone we have played or anyone we will play in the future, that they're always ready for a game against us and that's something we have to deal with.
"We've dealt with it well so far and we'll do our best to continue on with that on Saturday."
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