|By GREIG JOHNSTON
Melbourne Victory will have to handle the rest of their A-League campaign without classy left-back Adama Traore because of a severe ankle injury.
Traore was stretchered off during Saturday's 1-1 draw with Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium, and the initial diagnosis was a high ligament tear with 3-4 weeks on the sidelines.
But, speaking after training at Gosch's Paddock on Friday, coach Ange Postecoglou said the 23-year-old would likely need surgery on the problem, forcing him to miss the final six weeks of the season.
When asked when he could make the call on Traore's season, Postecoglou said: "I reckon I can make it now - he's gone.
"He'll probably have surgery, it's quite a significant injury. If surgery goes ahead, depending on what the extent of the repair's going to be, it could be three to four months out.
"It's disappointing for him, he's had a fantastic season for us. I think he's been the outstanding left-back in the country and a real driving force in our team.
"All players put in the hard yards so that they can play in the big games come finals time, so for him to be missing is a cruel blow to him because he's been a fantastic addition to our football club."
Postecoglou, however, was bullish about his side's title hopes even without the talented defender.
"There's nothing in the rules that says you can't win it without a Traore. So, I reckon we can still win it," he said.
"Ultimately it's about the 11 players you put out there, they're the ones who've got to perform.
"We're always confident with the 11 we put out there, regardless of the absences we've had, and we've had quite a few."
Postecoglou said Argentine star Marcos Flores would miss Saturday's trip north to play Sydney FC because of a back injury that prevented him training on Friday.
Flores has been sidelined for a month, initially with a quad problem, and Postecoglou was unsure if the injuries were related.
The Victory coach has been buoyed by their performances in recent weeks, after a slump in February saw them drop three matches in succession.
He wants to see continued improvement in Saturday's clash with a resurgent Sydney FC.
"From our perspective, we've hit some decent form over the last couple of weeks - we want to continue that on," he said.
"At some point in the finals series we're going to have to play an away game if we want to progress, and win away.
"It'll be a big crowd, it's always a great game against Sydney, the crowd turns up in numbers and I'm really looking forward to it."