Friendly preview: Socceroos v Saudi Arabia

The Socceroos will want to bounce back from their defeat to Belgium when they take on fellow AFC nation Saudi Arabia in London in the early hours of Tuesday morning (AEST).

Venue: Craven Cottage, London 
Broadcast details: Tuesday, September 9 - Fox Sports 1, Kick off 5am

Australia will be chasing their first win of 2014 as they ramp up preparations towards the Asian Cup, with coach Ange Postecoglou looking to give more of his youngsters a go as they chase experience on the international stage. 

After playing some of the world’s best nations in their last few matches, the Socceroos won’t be overawed by facing Saudi Arabia.

And with the Saudis losing to Fulham in a friendly on Friday in London, you'd like to think Ange's men will rack up a win. 

What Ange Postecoglou will want to get out of this game?
The Socceroos boss was disappointed with the number of mistakes his side made against Belgium which he’ll want eradicated at Craven Cottage. The heavy pressing from the Red Devils meant the Socceroos were unable to maintain any sustained periods of possession and Postecoglou will demand his side respect the ball much better.

Many of his youngsters, the likes of Jason Davidson, Tommy Oar and Mathew Leckie,  are regulars now and have a number of caps under their belts he will be keen to see them – and others – deliver more.

This will be an important game for...

Massimo Luongo
The Swindon Town midfielder has been on the periphery of the starting XI since he made the World Cup squad but is likely to earn his first senior international start for this one. Luongo showed some classy touches in his cameo against Belgium and will relish the chance to get into a match from the start. His ability to play in both the holding role and a bit further forward makes him an important player and if he can keep performing the way he has it will increase the midfield options for Postecoglou going forward.

Jason Davidson
An impressive World Cup showed Davidson has a bright future for the Socceroos in that troublesome left-back position. But the West Brom star remains prone to the odd defensive lapse which has proved costly and Postecoglou will want him to start cutting those out of his game. With youngster Brad Smith now providing another option on the left, Davidson now has some pressure to perform and will be desperate for a big performance against the Saudis.

Josh Brillante
Chris Herd’s calf problem could be a blessing for the Fiorentina man who may earn a start at right-back. Postecoglou admitted recently he may have erred leaving Brillante out of his World Cup squad and the youngster has the chance to prove his manager was wrong to leave him at home. The 21-year-old has been in impressive form for his club but can potentially nail down a national team spot if he can do the business in this one.
Likely starting XI and formation for Socceroos
Having played a gruelling and tough match just four days ago, Postecoglou is likely to make a few changes to his side for this one. Mat Ryan, who was superb against Belgium, has started every match in the Ange-era but may be given a rest to allow Mitch Langerak some game time.

Chris Herd picked up a calf injury and while he has been passed fit, Postecoglou may take the cautious approach with him and start Josh Brillante at right-back. Preston North End’s Bailey Wright is expected to get a crack alongside Alex Wilkinson in the heart of defence while Brad Smith could push Jason Davidson hard for a start on the left.

In midfield, Massimo Luongo may get a run from the start either in the holding role alongside skipper Mile Jedinak or further forward, where he showed some classy touches against Belgium. Robbie Kruse’s scare in training last week has limited the options for Postecoglou to make too many changes in attack. Leckie and Tommy Oar should again fill the wide roles and Tim Cahill will lead the line again, unless Postecoglou wants to get a good look at youngster Tomi Juric.

Bluffer's guide to Saudi Arabia
The Saudis have a proud history in the AFC and have been one of the regions strongest nations for many years. Their golden period came in the 1980s when they won the Asian Cup twice (in ’84 and ’88) as well as making four consecutive World Cups from 1994.

The current squad is currently ranked number 83 in the world – four spots below Australia – and are busily preparing for January’s Asian Cup.

Spaniard Lopez Caro has a good mix of youth and experience in his squad, the majority of which play in the domestic Pro League. Attacker Yasser Al-Qahtani is their main-man and is likely to be their best hope of a goal against Australia if he plays.

Australia and Saudi Arabia have met five times in the past, with the Socceroos losing just once, with three wins and a draw. Their last meeting came back in February 2012 when the Saudis were beaten 4-2 in Melbourne, with Mark Bresciano on the pitch. 

Saudi Arabia’s latest game
Was a behind-closed-doors friendly with Fulham on Friday, which they lost 2-1. Nassir Al-Shamrani with a penalty for the visitors in the first half but it was Matt Smith who bagged a brace for the Championship club in a game played at Motspur Park. 

A good result for Australia would be...
After six defeats in their last seven internationals, nothing but a win will suffice for Ange and his squad. There is no shame in losing to the likes of Belgium, Netherlands, Chile and Spain but this is a huge step down in the quality of their opponent and this young squad must capitalise. 

Building confidence heading into the Asian Cup is crucial and winning is the best way to do that. They won’t get punished as harshly on transition and should get more time on the ball to impose themselves on the match, which should give the likes of Oar, Leckie, Cahill, Bresciano and co the chance to do their thing. Postecoglou will no doubt want a strong performance but victory will be just as – if not more – important for the new boss who has just one win from eight games during his tenure.