Sydney FC have named a 25 man squad for their AFC Champions League 2016 campaign which begins a week tomorrow in Japan.
The Sky Blues face J1 League giants Urawa Red Diamonds at Saitama Stadium next Wednesday night in the first of six Group H matches.
Head Coach Graham Arnold is excited to get the campaign underway and admits it will be a big test.
“The AFC Champions League is a fantastic tournament and we will come up against some of the best teams in Asia,” he 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.”
AFC Champions League rules mean Arnold can only take three of his overseas quintet as part of the squad with Serbians Milos Ninkovic and Milos Dimitrijevic, and Senegalese international Mickael Tavares the three players included, and Jacques Faty and Filip Holosko set to concentrate on the Hyundai A-League.
Arnold believes the decision will give the Sky Blues the best chance of success on both fronts.
“I’ve spoken with all of the players and they are all good with the decision,” he continued. “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 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.”
The Sky Blues will need to use their squad depth with five huge matches in a two week period starting with Western Sydney Wanderers coming to Allianz Stadium this Saturday ahead of the game in Japan. That is followed by a trip to Melbourne Victory, a home game against Asian Champions Guangzhou Evergrande and a visit to Melbourne City after that.
Sydney FC AFC 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.
SYDNEY FC AFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GROUP H MATCH DETAILS
Wednesday 24th February 2016
Urawa Red Diamonds (Japan) vs Sydney FC
Saitama Stadium 2002, Saitama (near Toyko)
Kick Off – 7.30pm (local); 9.30pm (AEDT)
Wednesday 2nd March 2016
Sydney FC vs Guangzhou Evergrande (China)
Kick Off – 8pm (AEDT)
Wednesday 16th March 2016
Pohang Steelers (KOR) vs Sydney FC
Pohang Steelyard, Pohang
Kick Off – 7.30pm (local): 9.30pm (AEDT)
Tuesday 5th April 2016
Sydney FC vs Pohang Steelers (KOR)
Kick Off – 8pm (AEST)
Wednesday 20th April 2016
Sydney FC vs Urawa Red Diamonds (Japan)
Kick Off – 8pm (AEST)
Tuesday 3rd May 2016
Guangzhou Evergrande (China) vs Sydney FC
Guangzhou Tianhe Sport Center
Kick Off – 6.30pm (local time), 8.30pm (AEST)
Sydney FC’s 2016 AFC Champions League campaign proudly supported by StarTrack and UNSW
Sydney FC welcome Guangzhou Evergrande to Sydney Football Stadium for their first home AFC Champions League match of the group stage on Wednesday 2 March (kick off 8pm AEDT). Get your AFC Champions League Membership today and see the Sky Blues take on the best in Asia at home!