Defensive pillars will come in cold against Japan
TWO of Ange Postecoglou’s key defensive options are likely to go into the Socceroos’ crucial World Cup qualifier against Japan with little or no game time since the Confederations Cup in June.
Trent Sainsbury and Mark Milligan, leading candidates to anchor the coach’s controversial back three, have not played since Australia drew with Chile to exit the tournament on June 25.
Sainsbury has been struggling with a groin injury while Melbourne Victory are racing to get Milligan’s international clearance through after signing him on a marquee deal.
Though Victory had tried to get his clearance from the UAE Football Association before last night’s FFA Cup tie with Brisbane Roar, at best he would have one more outing before Australia take on Japan in Saitama on August 31.
That game, and a home tie with Thailand five days later, will dictate whether the Soc- ceroos earn automatic passage to the World Cup in Russia next year, or face a series of play- offs for a berth.
Sainsbury played in all three games at the Confederations Cup on the back of a loan spell at Inter Milan, but hasn’t played since returning to his Chinese club, Jiangsu Suning, after the tournament.
Though his club expect him to accrue some minutes before Postecoglou’s squad assembles in less than three weeks, it’s believed he is viewed as touch and go to be match fit by Socceroos officials.
While Milligan is certain to be picked as one of Postecoglou’s senior lieutenants, the uncertainty is likely to open the door for Matthew Spiranovic’s return to the squad.
The 29- year- old suffered a significant quad injury in March and hasn’t played for Australia since last November.