Who will take the game to Oman?
Who will Holger Osieck select to replace Lucas Neill against Oman and drive Australia to victory in a must-win game for the Qantas Socceroos?
Qantas Socceroos head coach Holger Osieck is set to announce his squad to face Oman in the FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifier against Oman in Sydney on 26 March, and the big question is who will replace the suspended Lucas Neill?
Make no mistake, this is a big game for Australia. Currently tied in second place in Group B on five points with Iraq and Oman, they must take advantage of the game in hand and the up-coming run of home fixtures.
The green and gold did for the Omanis 3-0 the last time they came Down Under but after losing to Jordan last September, no one-s taking anything for granted. So let-s go through the list…
Goalkeepers: Schwarzer-s No. 1, no questions, nothing to see here, move along. The understudy spots seem to be a race of three with Adam Federici, Brad Jones and Mitch Langerak all jockeying for the positions. Fed has missed a couple of games with a sprained ankle while Jones played 90 minutes in Liverpool-s win over Tottenham this week.
Defence: We all know Holger isn-t exactly the man for making left-field decisions but a number of question marks remain over different positions. Adaptability is good - but a settled backline would be better.
With the skipper suspended for the crucial clash, there-s an opportunity for one of our up-and-coming centrebacks to prove they-re ready to step up on the road to Brazil 2014, while left fullback is the eternal question.
Michael Zullo got a run-out at the back in the friendly against Romania and could get another chance. Jason Davidson has figured at times but for a World Cup qualifier, Osieck might perhaps go with what he knows and pull Matt McKay back from the wing to defence. The Chinese Super League has just resumed again and the former Roar midfielder is a regular starter with his club Changchun Yatai.
So who will be in the middle? The consensus appears to be that Robbie Cornthwaite is a certain starter after his good showing against Korea Republic and Romania. But there are a number of possibilities alongside him.
Injury has meant Matthew Spiranovic has hardly seen much game time with Al Arabi in Qatar, while Sasa Ognenovski hasn-t featured for the national team since the 2-1 loss to Jordan last year.
Injuries have kept Rhys Williams on the sidelines recently but after playing 90 minutes for Middlesbrough on the weekend, he-s more than likely to get a call-up and is perhaps the preferred choice alongside Cornthwaite.
Other possible additions could include Hyundai A-League players Mark Milligan, Jade North and Michael Thwaite. Some have pointed a finger and a questioning eyebrow in Eddy Bosnar-s direction, following his recent AFC Champions League performance for Suwon Bluewings against the Central Coast Mariners. A possible bolter? Depends on whether you think Osieck-s likely to bring in someone new at this stage of the campaign.
And let-s just stick Luke Wilkshire in at right fullback and be done with it. Ryan McGowan, maybe.
Midfield: Probably our strongest area of the pitch right now, with plenty of workers and creators fighting for just a few positions.
With Carl Valeri suspended and injured, James Holland is being tipped to get another chance to impress alongside Mile Jedinak or Mark Bresciano.
But who else will make the cut? Tim Cahill is ready to go now the MLS is up and running again, and both Brett Holman and Tommy Oar have been regular starters for their clubs. And will Tom Rogic get another shot, after settling into life at Celtic so impressively? Let-s hope so.
Attack: Without knowing Osieck-s tactics for the game, let-s assume it-ll be an attacking line-up. Robbie Kruse-s excellent form for Fortuna Dusseldorf makes him one of the first names on the team sheet, with some interesting possibilities alongside him.
Would you go for Alex Brosque or Nikita Rukavytsya as an out-and-out striker, or bring in Archie Thompson-s effervescence to open the Omanis up? Matthew Leckie could get the nod again but he-s had limited game time with FSV Frankfurt, and playing regular football is one of Osieck's mantras.
Surely there-s a squad in all of that - unless I-ve missed someone or unless Osieck pulls a surprise from his hat later this week...
The Qantas Socceroos face Oman in a FIFA World Cup qualifier Sydney on 26 March. Click here to buy your tickets.