It’s the news that will excite every Sydney FC fan and one coach Graham Arnold hopes will give the Sky Blues a huge boost for the rest of the Hyundai A-League season.
After more than a year on the sidelines with a knee injury, popular midfielder Ali Abbas is back in the Sky Blues squad and ready to take on Newcastle Jets on Saturday.
The Iraqi international hasn’t featured in the A-League since suffering a horror knee injury against Western Sydney Wanderers in December of 2014.
But after a handful of games for the Sky Blues youth team, Arnold confirmed Abbas will feature against the Jets at ANZ Stadium.
“It’s good to have him back. Sydney FC fans will be excited to see him back on the field because he’s a crowd favourite,” Arnold said.
“He’s worked extremely hard. We’ve held him back for a couple of weeks knowing that Alex Gersbach was going away.
“It’s been a tough road for him and a very lonely road at times because a lot of the rehab work he’s had to do by himself.
“He’s done his time in terms of playing games for the youth team and training sessions. He’s ready to go.”
Abbas writhing in pain on the Pirtek Stadium surface was one of the toughest images of last season, the result of a crunching tackle by Iacopo La Rocca.
And in a coincidence, Abbas’ return comes just a week before with the derby against the Wanderers on January 16, a match Arnold says the 29-year-old is desperate to play in.
“He is extremely motivated for the derby, especially being at Pirtek again,” Arnold said.
“He’s got his pace back and he’s got his power back. He’s hungry at training…he’s a bit of an angry ant
“It’s great to have him back especially at this time of the season when we’ve lost three players to the Olympic team for a month. He adds more depth.”
The Sky Blues squad is sure to be tested over the next month with skipper Alex Brosque out with a hamstring problem while Andrew Hoole, Alex Gersbach and Brandon O’Neill are on Olyroos duty.
Youngster Christopher Naumoff is set to take Hoole’s place while Milos Dimitrijevic is a ready-made replacement for O’Neill.
“We’ve got the depth to cover it…and it gives these players an opportunity now,” Arnold said.
“The boys have gone away and if these guys that come in on Saturday night and they perform well, they will keep their spot and the Olympic boys will find themselves out of the team.”