Postecoglou: Socceroos can put Kruse back in Leverkusen frame

Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou admits key man Robbie Kruse’s lack of game-time ahead of 2015 AFC Asian Cup isn’t “ideal” but is hopeful he’ll be firing for the major tournament.

Kruse was the 2013 Australian Footballer of the Year and played a vital role in 2014 World Cup qualifying before sustaining a serious knee injury which ruled him out of Brazil.

The 26-year-old attacking midfielder looms as a key creative spark for the Socceroos who have misfired in recent matches, but his lack of game-time at club level is a concern for Postecoglou.

Since returning from injury in September after more than eight months out, Kruse has struggled to force his way into Leverkusen first-team frame, managing only an hour of action at club level.

Kruse did come off the bench in stoppage-time overnight and put a chance wide with his first touch as Leverkusen defeated Zenit St Petersburg 2-1.

Despite his sniff of action overnight, Postecoglou conceded Kruse’s lack of opportunities at Bundesliga title hopefuls Leverkusen was far from ideal.

“Ideally you’d want him playing,” Postecoglou said during a teleconference after Kruse was named in a 23-man squad to take on Japan later this month.

“He got 45 minutes last week as well, which is at least some sort of game-time and he got a couple of minutes overnight.”

Kruse had been linked with a loan move during the last transfer window, with fears he would struggle for game-time as he returned from injury at a top Bundesliga outfit full of quality.

However, the next opportunity for Kruse to move won’t be until January, when the Asian Cup will be upon Australia. The Bundesliga also takes its winter break from December 21 to January 31.

“Between now and the Asian Cup we’re really hoping he pushes through and gets a bit more game-time,” Postecoglou said.

“We can help him by giving him game-time with the national team. He is such an important player, but we’ve got to remember he’s just coming off a serious injury.

“It’s going to be a bit of a gradual build for him. The last camp we had he trained really well, it looks like he’s ready to play football now.”

Kruse has been included in all of Postecoglou’s Australia camps following the World Cup, although he went home midway through Australia’s camp for the Belgium and Saudi Arabia friendlies after suffering a knee problem in training.

He was subsequently left out of the squad for the Qatar and UAE matches, but earned a late call-up following injury to Tomi Juric.

“Speaking to Robbie, he seems to be training really well and that’s why they didn’t let him go, keeping him there for a bit of insurance,” Postecoglou said.

“I’m sure this week’s training with us and knowing he’s got a game at the end of it will lift his spirits and hopefully send him back to Leverkusen to put some pressure on the starting XI.”

Fifth-placed Leverkusen takes on FSV Mainz in the Bundesliga on Saturday.