Australia coach Graham Arnold’s attacking options for this month’s do-or-die Socceroos World Cup qualifiers against Japan and Saudi Arabia have been dealt a double blow, with Jamie Maclaren’s wedding date clashing with the trip to Riyadh and Adam Taggart still recovering from knee surgery.

Socceroos upcoming window selection issues

  • Socceroos take on Japan and Saudi Arabia later this month.
  • Both games are must-win matches for Australia to automatically qualify for Qatar 2022.
  • Graham Arnold's side will be faced with several selection issues.

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To further complicate matters, three of Arnold’s wingers have question marks hanging over them.

Melbourne City’s Mathew Leckie is currently carrying a knock, Martin Boyle has picked up a knee niggle playing for new Saudi Pro League club Al-Faisaly and Awer Mabil is only just getting up to speed on loan at Turkish Super Lig Kasimpasa SK.

But it’s the lack of cover up the middle which is most troubling for Arnold, who must conjure back-to-back victories to qualify automatically for Qatar 2022 and avoid the pitfalls of the playoffs.

Whilst available for the visit of the Samurai Blue to Sydney’s Stadium Australia on March 24, the timing of Melbourne City striker Maclaren’s nuptials will preclude him journeying to the Kingdom for the Socceroos’ final Group B clash five days later.

Rigorous Covid regulations have put Maclaren’s wedding to partner Iva on hold for two years, and it’s understood he sought special dispensation from Arnold to finally tie the knot at the end of this month.

With so much at stake for Australia, Maclaren’s unavailability for the duel against the group leading Green Falcons is far from ideal for Arnold at a time of most need.

Maclaren, 28, proved his importance with two goals in Australia’s last two qualifiers - the 4-0 win over Vietnam and the costly 2-2 draw with an under-strength Oman. He has scored eight times in 21 internationals.

Cerezo Osaka’s Taggart, meanwhile, has missed the opening four games of new J1 League season as he continues his rehabilitation from knee surgery at the back end of last year.

All of which leaves Mitchell Duke, who has made two appearances for J2 League Fagiano Okayama so far this season, as the most obvious option, unless Arnold can deploy Leckie as a centre forward - assuming he’s fit.

Leckie has scored in three of City’s last four A-League games, and appears to have the bit between his teeth.


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