Syria a threat, but Socceroos too strong, says Luongo
BATTLE-hardened Australia has a physical edge over World Cup playoff combatant Syria, according to Queens Park Rangers star Massimo Luongo.
The untrained eye may not have picked it at the Socceroos' maiden training session at Melaka's Hang Tuah Stadium on Monday night, as the players breezed through a short, light session having trickled in over the preceding 24 hours after weekend games.
Coach Ange Postecoglou will up the ante in Tuesday's session, roughly 48 hours out from the Syria clash at nearby King Jebat Stadium.
Influential defender Trent Sainsbury almost certainly will play, despite light running during his modified solo session, having played a rare game for Chinese club Jiangsu Suning last Thursday.
Sainsbury, who has been nursing a groin injury for months, becomes vital in the absence of suspended Bristol City defender Bailey Wright and the omitted Matthew Spiranovic.
Late arrivals Mathew Leckie, Mat Ryan, Mitch Langerak, Brad Smith, Tomi Juric, Craig Goodwin and Israel-based Nikita Rukavytsya will join the squad on Tuesday.
Aided by a charter flight that will whisk the Socceroos from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney hours before the Syrians, Australia appears to have an edge although sticky Malaysian conditions may nullify that in the first leg.
"I don't expect them to be as fit as us or any different from what we've faced before,'' Luongo said.
"They've done well to get here so I'm guessing they'll have a lot of threats going forward, but it will be more up to us to break them down, and if we can it will be a good day for us.
"Usually the second day the analysts will give us a good heads up on what to expect (from the opposition). They always do their homework really well and make it easy for us to understand what we have to do."
Labelled the best midfielder in the Championship by manager Ian Holloway, the technically sound and durable Luongo felt good coming into camp.
"He's backed me. I'm really enjoying the season so far,'' he said.