With less than four months until the Caltex Socceroos’ World Cup campaign begins, here’s a snapshot of the latest news on some of Australia’s key players.
LUONGO LEADS CHAMPIONSHIP FOR TACKLES
Aaron Mooy has earned a reputation for his tackling prowess in the Premier League, but now another Caltex Socceroos midfielder is winning similar plaudits in the English Championship.
Massimo Luongo, who scored in his 100th game for Queens Park Rangers last weekend, leads the competition in tackles (115) with a 68% completion rate.
Barnsley’s Joe Williams has made the second-most tackles (101), while former Socceroo and Millwall full-back James Meredith is sixth on the list (89) after 34 games this season.
Despite 25-year-old Luongo’s best efforts, QPR are currently 16th on the Championship ladder, while Meredith’s Millwall are 12th with 12 games to play.
In the Premier League, Mooy is equal seventh for tackles (76).
The Caltex Socceroo has been sidelined with a knee injury, but Huddersfield have still managed to win back-to-back games against Bournemouth and West Brom.
The Terriers currently sit 14th on the ladder, with Mooy expected to return to action to face Swansea on March 11.
SAINSBURY CLOSE TO RETURN FROM INJURY
Trent Sainsbury said he is close to returning to action after surgery to repair a groin issue in November.
The Caltex Socceroos centre-back underwent the treatment after Australia qualified for the 2018 World Cup, and before joining Swiss club Grasshoppers on a six-month loan from Chinese club Jiangsu Suning.
Now the 26-year-old is preparing to take to the field for his new club as he bids to play at the World Cup in Russia.
“It’s [the recovery’s] going well,” Sainsbury told the club website.
“They’re putting me through some hard work in the gym at the moment, which is nice, but I’ll be back out there shortly.”
He added: “I missed the opportunity to go to the last World Cup with a broken knee so I had a lot of fire and hunger to qualify for this one.”
“To take a leadership role with this team, we want to do really well at the World Cup and get some good results. For us we’ve got a lot to look forward to.”
Sainsbury added that the playing in the World Cup was one of his motivations behind his move to Switzerland.
“I think it’s a nice club, it’s a proud club with a lot of history, obviously the most titles in Switzerland,” he said.
“It puts a weight on my shoulders and a pressure which I need.
“Obviously with the World Cup coming up I need game-time and to be playing at a high level.
“I can help the squad and they can help me.”
MOOY, ROGIC AND BEHICH’S FIFA 18 UPGRADES
Mooy’s time off the field hasn’t stopped his EA Sports FIFA 18 player rating being boosted from 77 to 78 in the EA Sports’ Ratings Refresh.
The midfielder has been a standout performer for Huddersfield this season with four goals including a winner against Newcastle and a vital strike in a victory over Manchester United.
Tom Rogic, who has just returned from injury for Celtic, has also had some of his FIFA 18 statistics improved.
The 25-year-old midfielder’s weak foot and skill moves have been improved by a rating of one, while Aziz Behich’s weak foot ability has also been bolstered by the same margin.
VUKOVIC’S PLAYER OF THE MONTH HONOUR
Danny Vukovic has been named Genk’s Fans’ Player of the Month for January after also taking out the award in November.
“It was a very good month for the club and me personally,” the 32-year-old goalkeeper told the club website.
“We worked very hard in the camp and I think that really helped us for January and we got some very important results and qualified for the cup final now so we are really happy.”
JEDINAK’S BIG SURPRISE
Caltex Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak paid a surprise visit to Aston Villa’s football school to meet children attending a session.
Among the excited players were also the 33-year-old midfielder’s two kids.
“I've got my two boys involved in them and they really enjoy it [the sessions],” the midfielder told the Aston Villa Foundation.
He added: "I enjoy listening to their stories when they get home about what they did and what they learned - it's great for them.
"I wish I had access to things like this when I was growing up. It would have been brilliant to have them available.”