The Hyundai A-League season is still eight weeks away, but Melbourne Victory players are already fighting hard for places in Kevin Muscat's first-choice team.
Victory has played four games since returning to pre-season training in early July, with each hit-out giving Muscat an insight into his best possible line-up.
"It's important we hit the 7th of October with everyone available and competition for places," Muscat said.
"It's the single easiest way to keep players on their toes. Form and performances are what gets you into the team and what keeps you there."
While there are multiple spots to fill on the playing roster ahead of the new Hyundai A-League season, there is already strong competition between Victory's defenders and midfielders.
Spanish recruit Alan Baro played his first three matches for the club as a central defender, but proved his versatility as a midfielder in this week's 6-0 win over Port Melbourne Sharks.
"He's adaptable. His intensity is great in that third of the park. He's proved already in a short space of time that he's very comfortable in both of those positions," Muscat said.
"It allowed us to play (James) Donachie, who I thought was outstanding. We left Nick (Ansell) out to make sure he's rested. It certainly gives us some options."
The players have felt a sharp incline in training intensity, which is breeding an extra hunger to impress the coaches.
"Having a competitive environment in training, it makes people hungry and makes you have to fight for your position," said defender Jason Geria.
"It makes the overall standard of training and games better for the team. We want to do well this season, so we need that constantly.
"Having competition like that for places can only help the group."
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