Qantas Under 23's near full strength for Lebanon clash

Qantas Under 23’s coach Graham Arnold has named a near full strength side for the important clash against Lebanon in Beirut on Thursday morning AEST.

Qantas Under 23-s coach Graham Arnold has named a near full strength side for the important clash against Lebanon in Beirut on Thursday morning AEST.

In good spirits while waiting for their flight from their base in Abu Dhabi to Beirut, Arnold was full of confidence in the team, despite the absence of key striker Bruce Djite, who is out with ankle ligament injury that is likely to rule him out for the remainder of the qualifying series.

Into the side comes Newcastle United striker James Troisi, who will play as a left winger in a three-man attack that will also feature Newcastle Jets Mark Bridge and Adelaide United-s Kristian Sarkies. Also back into the starting eleven is Adrian Leijer (from suspension) and Nathan Burns (from injury), which Arnold believes gives the side more balance.

The starting XI is: Danny Vukovic (gk); Ruben Zadkovich, Adrian Leijer, Mark Milligan, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Stuart Musialik, Nick Ward, Nathan Burns, James Troisi, Kristian Sarkies.

According to Arnold, the eight-day camp at the home of leading club side Al Jazira has been extremely beneficial and set them for a good performance in Lebanon.

“The boys have trained extremely well,” said Arnold. “They-ve had a good eight days in Abu Dhabi, where the facilities at Al Jazira are fantastic and they have really looked after us. We-ve adapted to the conditions hopefully, where it has been quite warm still and everyone is looking fit.”

While Arnold concedes that Djite-s absence is a blow, he believes the one thing that this squad has going for it, is its depth. Not once has Arnold been able to field the same side in consecutive games and at times having to change three or four players per game, so his confidence in the depth of the squad is very high.

“Losing a player of Bruce-s quality is a blow for sure, but the luxury now with this Olyroos squad is the depth that we have built over the last 12 months. “The fact is, a lot of them are now playing in the A-League regularly and there are even certain players that aren-t here that can add to the depth of the squad.

Arnold is planning to play an extra defender at the back and play Mark Bridge as the central striker, with Troisi and Sarkies as the two wide attackers, while Burns will play in just behind the front three, in what looks a very strong attack-minded formation.

“At home I usually play with a back three, whereas this time we have a back four, so I suppose you could say it-s been a little bit more cautious with one extra defender in there.

“Defending starts from the front and that-s what we-ve worked on a lot this week, making sure that the attack and midfield track, with the only difference being that I have Nathan Burns at the top of the diamond, with two working midfielders behind him. If anything it-s a more balanced side than what I had on the Central Coast.

“It-s a very fit and mobile side and we have some great options off the bench. As I said, we have created a lot of depth in this squad; it-s an exciting squad and one that I have a lot of belief in.”

Level on points with Iraq, but second because of goal difference, Arnold is not concerned about the need for goals, in the event of both teams finishing level on points at the end of the campaign.

“You can-t worry too much about goal difference; what we-ve got to do is just go out and get the results we need. Goal difference won-t come into account if we win all three of our games.

“Iraq has a difficult game away tomorrow night to North Korea and all we can do is worry about what we can control and that-s the Lebanon game tomorrow night; I am not looking any further past that.

“We are not going to go into the game thinking we are going to get five or six, because Lebanon will be a totally different side at home. It-s a game they have to win to stay in contention to qualify, so it-s going to be a very difficult game and I-ll be happy with a 1-0 result.”

Arnold is also aware of the fact that the players could have already been looking past this game, with the key match against Iraq next month in Gosford, and has made sure the boys are only concentrating on Wednesday-s game.

“If anything I have been a little bit angry with them this week, to make sure there is no complacency or getting ahead of themselves, because its just one game at a time and this is a tricky game away from home.

“As I have said, they have trained well; are extremely focused and all we are worried about at this moment is Lebanon tomorrow night.

“They had two suspended and one injured that night (in Gosford last month) and I know they are a totally different kettle of fish at home, compared to away from home. They haven-t qualified for this final round because they are a poor side; they-ve gone through eight games like we did beforehand and they-ve proven themselves.

“We are in Asia and there are no easy games and this is going to be a difficult game for us tomorrow night as well.”