Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Melbourne City regain key men Safuwan Baharudin at the right time

The return of Safuwan Baharudin, seen here contesting the ball with Central Coast Mariners players, will give Melbourne City a boost. Photo: Melbourne City

Injuries cut deepest at this time of year, with finals looming and a weekly scramble for points, but Melbourne City will get a boost from the return of three important players as they battle for the final spot in the top six.

City have lost key players for long stretches of the season.

Marquee man Robert Koren missed virtually all of the first half of the campaign through injury, only coming into the squad around Christmas. The former Premier League attacking midfielder is really only starting to have a consistent impact now.

Other City players have suffered numerous injuries that have kept them out for weeks at a time: Mate Dugandzic missed a chunk of the season while Josh Kennedy, the tall Socceroo frontman, is a fragile player who has battled a back problem for a long time. It cost him a spot at the World Cup in Brazil when he was one of the last players cut before the deadline for squad announcements had to be made.

The hapless James Brown, who made a comeback only a fortnight ago with the winning goal against Sydney in the 1-0 win that rekindled City's finals charge, has suffered another serious setback. Brown will miss the remainder of the season after injuring an ankle in the recent 1-0 win over Brisbane Roar at AAMI Park.

But City finally have some good news on the illness, injury, suspension and absence front.

As they battle for the last spot in the top six (assuming Perth Glory don't have 15 or more points deducted for salary cap infractions if they are proven later this week) they will benefit from the return of  Safuwan Baharudin for the final matches of the home and away season and the finals themselves.

Safuwan is now available, having been away with the Singaporean team on international duty, missing the past few games.

The Asian utility has made a strong impression playing in a variety of roles since joining City after the Asian Cup and has even got himself on the scoresheet. Scoring 2 goals in 5 games as a defender proves that he is also an attacking defender. He may well be considered for a spot in the starting line-up for Sunday's big game with Premiership-chasing Wellington Phoenix.

One win in their last three matches might be enough to secure a finals spot for City. Van 't Schip's side is six points clear of Brisbane, who have a game in hand.

If City can beat either Wellington, Perth or Adelaide over the next three weeks Brisbane would have to win all four of their remaining games to catch and pass them. That's a tall order, given they face Melbourne Victory twice and also have to travel to Korea and China for Asian Champions League games over the next three weeks.

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