NEWCASTLE Jets coach Scott Miller is prepared to nurse hired gunLeonardo through the remainder of the season as the Brazilian battles a problematic knee injury.
Leonardo, 32, sat out the 1-0 loss to Sydney FC on Friday night, and has appeared in six of nine games this campaign.
Miller is confident that the attacking midfielder will be fit for the clash againstMelbourne City at Hunter Stadium on Sunday but he will undergomodified training.
“It is a bit of a challenge for Leonardo with his injuryhistory,” Miller said.
“The surfaces in Australia are always hard.It is a reaction every week for him.
“It will be a case where Leonardo spends a lot of time in rehabilitation throughout the week, with a view to play on the weekend.
“That is always a challenge because you want your key players to have a standpoint throughout the week on the training ground.But him training versus not playing or not training and playing far outweighs that.”
A major off-season signing, Leonardohas been paramountto the Jets’ early-season success.Hisclose control and ability to pick a pass in transition, vision and delivery from set pieces have added layers to the attack.
Rookie Ryan Kitto deputised in the No.10 role in the defeat to the Sky Blues, which dropped the Jetsout of the top six for the first time this season.
Ben Kantarovski hasalso covered in an attacking role,and Mitch Cooper has filled in off the bench.
“When Leo is fit, he is fit,” Miller said.
“Last week [against the Roar] he gave everything for us. He probably played 10 to15 minutes more than he should have.He wants to play and is committed. He tried to participate in the session on Thursday and lasted about 15 minutes.
“It is overcoming the pain in the knee that causes the problem.”
Although not “ideal”,Miller said the situation was a “reality”.
“We have to manage it,” he said. “I’m very open and my picture is bigger.One game away from home [or] to lose him for three –I don’t think it is value for money or common sense.”
Leonardo, who is off contract,had not played in almost a year when he joined the Jets from German club 1860 Munich, where he fell out with a new manger.
He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee playing for Ajax in 2007.He returned later that year and played regularly in stints atNAC Breda, Red Bull Salzburg andFerencvaros .
As well Leonardo, Miller expects skipperNigel Boogaard (ankle) to return against City.
“Nigel waspretty close against Sydney,” Miller said.
“This is the second weekwe have had two days less recovery [between games] than the opposition.Next week it works to our favour.”
KEY MAN: Brazilian Leonardo is expected to return for the Jets against Melbourne City at Hunter Stadium on Sunday. Picture: Darren Pateman
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