The All Whites have lost a senior player for the upcoming match with Uzbekistan (Wednesday 4am NZT) but gained the services of two other key men.
Playmaker Sarpreet Singh, the team's main creative force, hasn't trained since Saturday's 3-1 loss to Jordan due to a minor groin injury and won't take any part in the match.
Coach Danny Hay said Singh had "managed himself" through the Jordan game before electing to stay in camp for treatment rather than returning to his German club.
However fellow midfielder Joe Bell, whose absence left a considerable vacuum against Jordan, is expected to suit up after overcoming a calf niggle.
"Joe is recovering," said Hay. "He's looking highly likely to play."
Hay emphasised that no risks would be taken with Bell, given his long season ahead and the proximity of the March international window, but was optimistic.
First choice goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic is also back, after being initially unable to initially make the trip due to a positive Covid test.
Marinovic stayed with his Israeli club, before linking up with the team on Sunday in Abu Dhabi after recovering from the virus.
"Stefan will start," said Hay. "He was desperate to join up with the squad and we wanted to give him every opportunity. He's an integral part of the team so it makes sense, [with] such a short flight in particular.
Hay was confident Marinovic will be ready to go, given he is in season, unlike many of the squad.
"He has played a couple of [club] games [before catching Covid]," said Hay. "And even though he got a positive COVID test, he had no ill effects, didn't feel anything."
Newcastle United striker Chris Wood will be part of the equation on Wednesday, though his playing time could be restricted.
"I spoke to Woodsy [on Sunday] and he [was], as expected, desperate to play," said Hay. "He will start and we'll look at about 60, 65 minute mark whether we bring him off."
Alongside Wood, St Mirren striker Alex Greive is set to continue his remarkable recent rise, with Hay confirming the 22-year-old will be in the starting XI.
Less than six months ago, Greive was turning out for Birkenhead United in the Northern League, before scoring a dream move to the Scottish Premiership.
He was a late call up for this window and had a lively 10 late cameo against Jordan.
"Al's been a slow burner but he's definitely ready now," said Hay. "The guys at St Mirren talk very highly of him."
Uzbekistan (world No 84) will be another tough test for New Zealand (110). They held Australia to 0-0 in the 2019 Asian Cup (before losing on penalties) and Oman, China, Syria and Jordan are among recent scalps, while they pushed world No 18 Sweden away from home last September, eventually losing 2-1.
The teams have met once before, with the All Whites losing 3-1 in September 2014 in Tashkent.
With three quarters of the New Zealand squad coming out of their off seasons and lacking match fitness, Hay dampened down expectations.
"We're not judging ourselves on the result," said Hay. "It's more around the performance and looking at each individual player and how they can contribute to the team, obviously [with] an eye to us qualifying in March and then in June."
"That will be a big focus, rather than solely judging players that haven't touched a football for such a long time."