Thu, Oct 6, 12:02pm by Staff Writer
Date and Time: Friday October 7, 4:45am AEDT
Venue: King Abdullah Sports City, Jeddah
Ange Postecoglou’s Socceroos head into this week’s World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia as favourites, but can’t expect an easy win Friday morning (AEST).
Saudi Arabia are one of just three unbeaten Asian squads in World Cup qualification, but as much as the team, Australia will be contending with the conditions at the sold-out King Abdullah Sports City stadium.
The game, expected to be played in steamy conditions with temperatures in the low 30 degrees Celsius, will pose a challenge for the predominantly Europe-based squad.
“Whilst the conditions are warm, they’re not as warm as we’ve faced before, and the players have coped really well with it,” Postecoglou told a pre-match press conference.
“We prepare for all games the same way, we understand the different conditions we have to face. But nothing changes for us,” he said.
As well as a 1-0 win last month over the United Arab Emirates in similarly oppressive conditions, Australia will be boosted by the expected return of captain Mile Jedinak from an Achilles injury.
“He’s one of those guys that maybe people don’t see the real value that he brings to our team, it’s not just about what he does, it’s about how the guys feel when he’s out there with them,” Posecoglou told News Corp of the Aston Villa midfielder.
With the final line up yet to be decided, Postecoglou must decide where to use the versatile Mark Milligan and whether to start veteran Tim Cahill, who came off the bench to score the winner in Dubai.
There are also options available with new squad members Jimmy Jeggo and Craig Goodwin, who are performing well in Europe.
Also high in Postecoglou’s calculations will be the prospect of a tough match against fierce Asian rival Japan in Melbourne the following week.
A strong showing in its October matches will put the Australians in the box seat for a spot in Russia for the 2018 World Cup.
Saudi Arabia, under Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk, may not have conceded a loss so far this qualifying campaign, but their only goals have come from the penalties and it certainly lacks the attacking flair of Australia.
Van Marwijk coached the Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final and is tasked with getting the Saudis to their first World Cup since 2006.
“We know we play against a very good team and we respect them but we also have to trust in ourselves,” he said. “The players are in very good shape, mentally they are well prepared. We are not afraid.”
The Australian starting line up will likely comprise: Mathew Ryan; Ryan McGowan, Mark Milligan, Matthew Spiranovic, Brad Smith; Mile Jedinak, Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic; Massimo Luongo, Tomi Jurica and Robbie Kruse.
Australia will take on Saudi Arabia from 4.45am Friday AEST.
Suggested Bet: Australia to win at $2.18
Saudi Arabia $3.5
Total Game Score
Ov. (2.5) $2.40
Un. (2.5) $1.53
Saudi Arabia/Saudi Arabia $6
Saudi Arabia/Draw $15
Saudi Arabia/Australia $29
Draw/Saudi Arabia $7.5
Australia/Saudi Arabia $41
Any Saudi Arabia Player $2.30
Tomi Juric $7.00
Tim Cahill $7.00
Apostolos Giannou $7.50
No Goalscorer $8.00
Mathew Leckie $9.00
Christopher Ikonomidis $9.50
Robbie Kruse $9.50
Craig Goodwin $12.00
Tom Rogic $12.00
Aaron Mooy $14.00
Mile Jedinak $14.00
Massimo Luongo $15.00
Jimmy Jeggo $19.00
Jackson Irvine $19.00
Mark Milligan $21.00
Bailey Wright $23.00
Trent Sainsbury $34.00
Brad Smith $41.00
Alex Gersbach $41.00
Matthew Spiranovic $51.00
Ryan McGowan $61.00
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