Wellington Phoenix's shallow squad depth is going to be put to the test in their A-League season opener on Saturday against Melbourne City, according to veteran Vince Lia.
The Phoenix will be without four key men in captain Andrew Durante, Michael McGlinchey, Matt Ridenton and new signing Kosta Barbarouses, all of whom are on international duty with New Zealand.
A fifth player, defender Tom Doyle, is also out injured with a hamstring strain.
"It's already going to test our backline, so we're up against it in the first game against [Bruno] Fornaroli, who's the best striker in the competition," Lia said.
"Our depth is going to be tested but every squad has got to go through it at some stage in the season so it'll be a good one for us on Saturday."
However, the 31-year-old is confident the team can put up a fight against the competition heavyweights after claiming four wins in the build-up to the season.
Not coincidentally, all four have come after the arrival of Italian defender Marco Rossi.
While big-name recruits Barbarouses and Gui Finkler have dominated the lead-in to the new campaign, Lia said the addition of the former Serie A defender had given the team a lift.
"He's really shored up our backline since coming in and he's a left-foot centre-back, which we haven't had before," he said.
"Our backline's a lot more balanced now. Drewy can go back on the other side. He's played in Serie A, Serie B, played against some good players, so he knows football."
Lia conceded the Phoenix's roster was top-heavy in 2016-17, but was of the firm belief that their first-choice 11 could match it with the best in the league.
He declared a top-four finish as their goal this campaign.
"We want to play finals football -- we want to get home finals," he said.
"Since Marco's come in -- that was after the Western Sydney defeat in the FFA Cup -- we've done really well. We haven't lost since that day.
"It's been a good back end to the pre-season and it gives us some momentum going into round one."