In a match the Socceroos must win, Ange Postecoglou looks set to trial a new midfield set-up against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday morning (AEST).
The 49-year-old coach has already flagged starting debuts for Massimo Luongo and Bailey Wright, with the introduction of the former sparking interesting questions about how the Swindon Town midfielder will be used.
After five defeats in a row and seven games without a victory, Australia desperately need some success as they look to build towards the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in January on home soil. But who will start for the Socceroos in London?
Mat Ryan got another start versus Belgium last week, continuing his perfect record under Postecoglou. But with the Socceroos tactician having declared the point of this international window is to expand the depth at his disposal, expect Borussia Dortmund number two Mitch Langerak to start in goal at Craven Cottage. The 26-year-old has not started for Australia since their 3-0 win over Canada almost a year ago but has had a decent start to the Bundesliga season with three appearances in all competitions.
Wright will make his debut alongside Alex Wilkinson with Trent Sainsbury relegated to the bench. Sainsbury was solid in central defence at the Stade Maurice Dufrasne after a shaky start but Postecoglou wants to see Wright in action, with the Preston North End man having patiently waited in the wings since his surprise selection in the Socceroos' final World Cup squad.
In order to maintain some continuity in defence, expect Jason Davidson to again start at left-back, although Brad Smith may be given the second half to show his worth. Right-back is again the hardest spot to pick in the back four with Chris Herd declared fit to play after coming off before half-time against Belgium with a spasm in his calf. Herd looked good early on Friday morning, setting up Australia's best chance to score in the first half, but Postecoglou may be cautious with the Aston Villa defender and give Joshua Brillante the nod. The former Newcastle Jets utility provided some drive from right-back last week, although he did surrender possession for Belgium's second goal.
Luongo was arguably Australia's most-impressive substitute in Liege, displaying some impressive touches and admirable attacking intent when he replaced Mark Bresciano in attacking midfield for the final half hour. Reports out of London indicate Postecoglou wants to play Bresciano and Luongo together, which could see the latter sit alongside captain Mile Jedinak as a holding midfielder or be central to a tweak in formation.
With Mark Milligan likely to be rested, Luongo and Bresciano could roam ahead of Jedinak, providing closer support to the Socceroos' forwards, with Australia expected to dominate Saudi Arabia. A 4-1-4-1 formation in attack would most likely morph into Postecoglou's classic 4-2-3-1 in defence, as Luongo has the engine to work up and down the pitch.
The other option would be for Postecoglou to pick a diamond midfield and just two up front with Luongo and Milligan shuttling between Bresciano in the hole and Jedinak ahead of the back four. But this would be a significant change for the Socceroos under Postecoglou, who is very keen on wingers.
With Robbie Kruse heading back to Bayer Leverkusen after hurting his knee in training in Liege, Postecoglou's options up front are limited. Bank on Tomi Juric to get more than his three minutes against Belgium but it may be prudent to start Tim Cahill again to perhaps give Australia some momentum with an early goal.
Out wide, Mathew Leckie was arguably the Socceroos' best player in Belgium, so he should start, while Tommy Oar is one of Postecoglou's favourites. Ben Halloran is the only real rival to that duo but expect Leckie and Oar to start, with the hope the two wingers can find some goal-scoring form against weaker opposition.
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