A KEY battle in the war to win the Socceroos’ problematic right-back spot will be decided in Saturday night’s pressure-cooker Melbourne derby.
Melbourne City’s Ivan Franjic, Ange Postecoglou’s 2014 World Cup and 2015 Asian Cup preference, duels with recent favourite, Melbourne Victory’s Jason Geria.
Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou will be watching intently from Europe, where he is scouting, as he attempts to solve one of his big conundrums ahead of a crucial 2017 that includes the decisive World Cup qualifiers and the Confederations Cup.
Since Luke Wilkshire’s axing three years ago, Postecoglou has tried no less than eight right-backs, including Chris Herd (Gillingham), Milos Degenek (1860 Munich), Ryan McGowan (Henan Jianye), Josh Risdon (Perth Glory), Tarek Elrich (Adelaide) and Mark Milligan (Baniyas).
Franjic’s injury woes have opened the door, but he is edging closer to his best after overcoming a mystery heart illness that almost ended his career.
“I haven’t been back for long and every week I’m feeling stronger and stronger and hopefully soon enough it’ll be like the old days where I used to bomb on for fun,’’ Franjic said.
“I’m feeling much better and the physios and medical staff have done a great job to get me back to where I am now.
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“The main thing for me is to keep playing well each week for Melbourne City then it’s up to Ange to select who he thinks is best for the position leading up to the World Cup qualifiers.’’
It’s three months until the Socceroos’ next games, March qualifiers against Iraq and UAE, but then they come thick and fast, headlined by a bumper June fixture-list.
Franjic’s big-game prowess was on show in the FFA Cup final, with a sterling performance headlined by the assist for Tim Cahill’s header, and Socceroos brownie points are on offer in tonight’s high-octane fixture.
Now 29, Franjic said he’d learnt to look after his body.
“First and foremost is not getting injured. I need to play week in, week out for City and we’re battling for top spot. When you’re up near the top things tend to look after themselves,’’ he said.
“As you grow older you mature, you’ve had injuries before and you know you to prevent them to a certain extent.
“Some things you can’t stop, there’s freak things (that happen), but I’ve just become better at recovering and looking after the body more and what I’m eating.”
Say hello to two of the form sides in the A-League. They also happen to be neighbours and bitter rivals. One used to be called the little brother but Melbourne City are quickly changing that perception. They won their first piece of silverware with the FFA Cup a fortnight ago and are undefeated in their last 6 matches. At one stage the Victory had won 3 in a row against City but it has been flipped on its head with City winning 3 and drawing 1 across the last 4 meetings. The encounter also features the league’s two top scorers with Berisha (8) and Fornaroli (7) taking the pitch. Tim Cahill also looks set to return to the starting XI after starting on the bench against Sydney FC. There is never any love lost when these two meet nor is there any shortage of goals. There have been at least 3 goals in the last 6 matches between them at a rate of almost 4 per game. This will be one for the ages!