Juric returnsfor clash with Al-Hilal
Tomi Juric Photo: Brendan EspositoWestern Sydney Wanderers striker Tomi Juric is set to make his first appearance in the red and black hoops in two months after overcoming a groin injury in time to face Al-Hilal in the first leg of the Asian Champions League final.
The 23-year-old is set to play his first competitive game for his club since scoring the decisive penalty away to Guangzhou Evergrande on August 27 to ease the selection woes facing coach Tony Popovic.
The Wanderers No.9 has been on the sideline for the past three weeks due to a groin injury sustained at training but is back to full training and in contention to play in the biggest match of the young club’s existence.
Club sources suggest Juric was close to returning for the Sydney derby last Saturday night but was not risked with the first leg of the Asian Champions League final just seven days later.
The centre forward resumed full training with the rest of the squad this week and is likely to start as fellow striker Brendon Santalab is still shaking off a minor hamstring injury sustained in last weekend’s loss to Sydney FC.
The news will be a boost to Popovic as the Wanderers’ forwards depth looked to be tested against the Saudi Arabian giants. While Juric and Santalab were under an injury cloud at the start of the week, new signing Nikita Rukavytsya was ineligible for the Asian Champions League after joining the club after the deadline for registration.
Juric was suspended for the first leg of the Wanderers semi-final clash against FC Seoul on September 17 alongside Santalab, prompting a new-look attack led by Labinot Haliti and a bench consisting predominantly of youth players.
He then missed the second leg match after sustaining a minor groin injury in the final training session before the home tie against Seoul on October 1. The injury ruled him out of the Socceroos’ friendly games in the MIddle East against the UAE and Qatar.
Juric could also be joined on the teamsheet by Matthew Spiranovic, who is a chance to play his first game since the World Cup. The Wanderers defender resumed full training following ankle surgery in the off-season and is in contention to start in a backline that conceded seven goals in the club’s last two games.
The Wanderers stand to collect up to $1.7 million in prizemoney by winning the Asian Champions League final and are already guaranteed more than $850,00, the prize for the runner-ups. An ACL victory will also guarantee the Wanderers an additional $1.1 million in appearance fees for the Club World Cup, to be held in Morocco.
The Wanderers will keep all the prizemoney associated with the Asian Champions League and the Club World Cup prizemoney and will not have to divide any winnings with the FFA or other A-League clubs.
Meanwhile, Al-Hilal continued to train behind closed doors on Thursday and moved to their third venue this week as part of their preparations for Saturday’s final. The Saudis trained at Marconi Stadium on Thursday afternoon after previously running sessions at Wilson Park in Homebush Bay and Lambert Park in Leichhardt.
It is understood the club wanted to hold one session in the evening to prepare the players as best as it can for the Saturday night clash with the Wanderers, but had to settle for an afternoon booking at Marconi. Fairfax Media understand that, having previusly switched fields due to the playing surface not reflecting that of Pirtek Stadium in Parramatta, Al-Hilal are frustrated at being unable to find a suitable training venue for an evening session.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.