Sydney FC have named their 25-man squad for their upcoming Asian Champions League campaign. Filip Holosko and Jacques Faty, both high profile players for the Sky Blues, miss the cut in Sydney’s return to Asia’s most prestigious football competition.
The Harbour City club opens their campaign against Urawa Red Diamonds at Saitama Stadium in Japan on Wednesday 2nd March, 2016. Graham Arnold admitted it will be a big test but is also excited to get underway in the competition.
“The AFC Champions League is a fantastic tournament and we will come up against some of the best teams in Asia,” Arnold said. “It’s a huge statement for Sydney FC to be one of only two Australian clubs to be competing in it and I’m looking forward to the challenge of coaching in the tournament for the third time.”
The Asian Football Confederation has a 3+1 rule, which means that a squad can have three imports plus one Asian player. Arnold has made the decision to include Milos Dimitrijevic, Milos Ninkovic and Mickael Tavares in the squad, with Filip Holosko and Jacques Faty missing out. The latter two players will be concentrating on ensuring the Sky Blues have a success A-League campaign.
Arnold believes his decision will give the club the best chance to succeed both domestically and on the continent.
“I’ve spoken with all of the players and they are all good with the decision,” Arnold said. “I’ve picked the squad based on trying to succeed in both the Champions League and in the A-League. There’s going to be a lot of travel and a lot of games in a short period of time and we have to be very careful how we use the players so they don’t break down.
“Filip has struggled getting used to the hard pitches in the A-League this season having come from Europe and has been nursing a niggling hamstring injury all campaign. He wants to concentrate on the A-League season and get used to playing on the hard pitches. After speaking with him we both felt that he would be best served saving himself for the A-League and avoiding the long travel which could put his whole season in jeopardy. He is a power player with a bigger frame and the travel combined with the heavy schedule would have caused him a few problems.
“We brought in David Carney which provides us with ample cover on the flank, and we still have Christopher Naumoff, Andrew Hoole and George Blackwood who can play there as well.
“Jacques is equally happy with avoiding the long travel and preserving his body to win the A-League title and again we have a big squad to cover his absence. They (Faty and Holosko) understand that it’s a difficult decision and one we have made with the ambition of winning both competitions. It’s been explained to them clearly that they aren’t being dropped or disrespected.”
Sydney FC’s depth will be tested with the club playing five huge fixtures over the next two weeks, beginning with the Sydney Derby at Allianz Stadium this Saturday and Urawa next Wednesday. Following that is away trip to Melbourne Victory, a home match against current Asian Champions Guangzhou Evergrande and another visit to Melbourne against Melbourne City.
One player particularly looking forward to the competition is Milos Dimitrijevic. While he had heard little of the Sky Blues’ Group H opponents prior to the draw, he believes they will provide a good test.
“I expect to see a lot of good football at a high level,” Dimitrijevic said. “In the AFC Champions League you see the best teams in Asia and I expect to feel the high level carry over to here as I to try to do something with my team in the competition. I’m looking forward to getting our group underway; I’m excited by what is ahead. They spent a lot of money, especially in the last few weeks, so it will be good for us to play against them and prove that we also have good qualities and can match it with them.”
Sydney FC Asian Champions League Squad
1.Vedran JANJETOVIC (GK), 2.Seb RYALL, 4. Zac ANDERSON, 5.Matt JURMAN, 6.Robert STAMBOLZIEV, 7.Andrew HOOLE, 8.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 10.Milos NINKOVIC, 11.Christopher NAUMOFF, 12.Jacob TRATT, 13.Brandon O’NEILL, 14.Alex BROSQUE, 16. Riley WOODCOCK, 17.David CARNEY, 18.Matt SIMON, 20.Ivan NECEVSKI (GK), 22.Ali ABBAS, 23.Rhyan GRANT, 24.George BLACKWOOD, 25. Aaron CALVER, 26.Max BURGESS, 27.Mickael TAVARES, 28.Alex MULLEN, 30.Antony BOUZANIS (GK).
Group H: Sydney FC Match Details
Urawa Red Diamonds (Japan) at Saitama Stadium, 24th February 2016 (Wednesday)
Kick Off: 7:30pm (local); (9:30pm AEDT)
Guangzhou Evergrande (China) at Sydney Football Stadium, 2nd March 2016 (Wednesday)
Kick Off: 8pm AEDT
Pohang Steelers (Korea) at Pohang Steelyard, 16th March 2016 (Wednesday)
Kick Off: 7:30pm (local); (9:30pm AEDT)
Pohang Steelers (Korea) at Sydney Football Stadium, 5th April 2016 (Tuesday)
Kick Off: 8pm AEST
Urawa Red Diamonds (Japan) at Sydney Football Stadium, 20th April 2016 (Wednesday)
Kick Off: 8:00pm AEST
Guangzhou Evergrande at Guangzhou Tianhe Sport Center, 3rd May 2016 (Tuesday)
Kick Off: 6:30pm (local); (8:30pm AEST)