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Socceroos skipper unlikely for crucial World Cup qualifiers

Soccer

Australian captain Mile Jedinak’s hopes of appearing in a Socceroos shirt for World Cup qualifiers with Japan and Thailand appear dashed.

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Jedinak is still troubled by the same groin issue that ruled him out of June’s Confederations Cup.

The combative midfielder, who turns 33 today, will miss Aston Villa’s Championship season-opener with Hull City this weekend.

Villa coach Steve Bruce confirmed on Thursday the ex-Crystal Palace skipper would be out for “a couple of weeks”.

A club statement said Jedinak was “in light training but is still approximately two weeks away from being available”.

Given Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou must name his squad at least two weeks before the August 31 qualifier with Japan, Jedinak is in grave doubt of missing the cut.

Jedinak was last sighted in club colours in April in Villa’s 1-0 win over arch-rivals Birmingham City.

With their season petering out, Villa then allowed Jedinak to rest for a busy June of national team action.

Jedinak returned to help Australia defeat Saudi Arabia in their must-win qualifier but was subsequently ruled out of the Confederations Cup in Russia.

He returned to England and underwent groin surgery in early July, missing Villa’s pre-season.

His rehabilitation timeline leaves Postecoglou in a tricky place.

The national team boss has been a firm adherent to his “form and fitness” mantra, which gives credence to players firing at club level ahead of reputation.

But Postecoglou could be light on for players for the matches against Japan and Thailand.

He has already signalled he is unlikely to pick any A-League players for his squad given the long off-season break.

Tim Cahill and Mark Milligan, recently signed by Melbourne Victory, are likely exceptions to this rule.

When Jedinak does return to fitness he is expected to fill a crucial role at club level.

Villa are the favourites to be promoted to the English Premier League this season, having signed former England captain John Terry to bolster their title hopes.

Bruce suggested the cost to add Terry to their squad would mean losing “one or two” players, but it’s unlikely Jedinak would be one of those.

“We’ve had to box a little bit clever,” he told the club’s website.

“I’m in no doubt that there will be a few people that might still leave the football club.”

Australia currently sits third in their qualifying group.

The top two places progress to Russia while a third-place finish would send the Socceroos on a tricky repechage pathway.

 

While Jedinak will sit out Saturday’s clash with Hull, other key members of Postecoglou’s Socceroos squad will start their seasons this weekend as the English Championship and Scottish Premiership get underway.

Jedinak is not the only Australian on the books at Villa Park with Perth-born 21-year-old Jordan Lyden targeting a breakthrough season after missing last year through injury.

Lyden, who can play right back or midfield, debuted for Villa in 2016 and has featured throughout Villa’s pre-season campaign.

But his best hope of regular action could in be in a loan move at the end of this month.

Elsewhere in the Championship Massimo Luongo’s QPR are at home to a Reading side who were beaten in the playoff final by Aaron Mooy’s Huddersfield last season.

Bailey Wright’s Bristol City face Barnsley at Ashton Gate with Jackson Irvine’s Burton Albion hosting Cardiff City.

Newly-promoted Millwall will hand a debut to Socceroos international left-back James Meredith who has signed from Bradford City.

Albury-born Meredith, 29, has enjoyed a circuitous path in the English game since arriving in England as a 16-year-old at Derby.

Bradford’s run to the League Cup final in 2013 put him in the spotlight but it was Millwall who finally took the plunge and signed him after the Lions beat the Bantams in last season’s League One play-off decider.

In League One, Socceroos great Harry Kewell cuts his managerial teeth with Crawley Town against Port Vale.

The former Leeds and Liverpool star is the first Australian to manage an English club after his surprise appointment in May but insists he’s more than ready for the task after coaching Watford’s under-23 team last year.

“My passion for coaching is immense,” Kewell said in a recent interview with ESPN.

“I’ve fallen in love with it. I enjoy the structure. I love the hard work.

“To be able to get a young player to perform a drill or execute a phase of play – that’s satisfying. I get happy and think he’s learned, and that’s what I enjoy. I actually prefer coaching to playing.”

In Scotland, Tom Rogic’s Celtic open their title defence at home to Hearts.

Former Perth Glory midfielder Ryan Edwards will be in action for Partick Thistle at Hibernian.

-AAP 

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