Preview: North Queensland v Sydney
The first A-League fixture in far north Queensland should be a treat for those wanting attacking football as Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler lines up at one end, with Australian 2006 World Cup hero John Aloisi down the other.
Date: Saturday August 8 Kick-off: 5:30pm AEST Venue: Dairy Farmers Stadium, Townsville TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 3 and Sky Sports 3. To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.com.au
Pre-Season: (Matches against A-League opposition or touring teams) North Queensland June 7: North Queensland 0, Central Coast 1, Jardine Park, Rockhampton June 13: North Queensland 0, Brisbane Roar 4, Harrup Park, Mackay June 23: Gold Coast United 2, North Queensland 0, Skilled Park, Robina June 27: Sydney FC 4, North Queensland 0, Toyota Park, Woolooware July 2: North Queensland Fury 3, Adelaide United 2, Darwin Football Stadium, Darwin July 15: North Queensland 1, Wolverhampton 2, Members Equity Stadium, Perth July 18: Perth Glory 1, North Queensland 0, Hyundai Stadium, Mandurah July 25: North Queensland Fury 1, Brisbane Roar 0, Tony Ireland Stadium, Kirwan
Sydney FC: June 27: Sydney FC 4, North Queensland 0, Toyota Park, Woolooware July 6: Sydney FC 0, Central Coast 0, Leichardt Oval, Leichardt July 12: Newcastle 0, Sydney FC 2, Port Regional Stadium, Port Macquarie July 26: Sydney FC 1, Newcastle 1, Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney
Analysis The first A-League fixture in far north Queensland should be a treat for those wanting attacking football as Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler lines up at one end, with Australian 2006 World Cup hero John Aloisi down the other. As much as both sides are playing down talk of a shootout between the pair, there's no doubting their names will be on everyone's lips as they pass through the turnstiles for the Fury's inaugural match in this competition.
The name Robbie Fowler speaks for itself. A champion at Liverpool during the 1990s, the 34-year-old scored 266 goals overall in the English Premier League and is arguably the greatest player to ever grace our shores. That being said, the marquee man has endured a frustrating pre-season battling hip and groin injuries, along with malicious media reports he wanted to head back home. He appeared a little rusty when he made his first appearance for North Queensland against Wolverhampton in Perth, but he still drilled a penalty and has gradually improved his fitness over the Fury's last pre-season fixtures. If Fowler can be half as dangerous as he was in his Liverpool hey-day, then North Queensland fans could be in for a treat.
Fowler, though, will need to be dangerous as the Fury lack cover up front. Chris Grossman and Daniel McBreen are quality foils for the Englishman but the club's forward options have already been limited, with talented New Zealander Jeremy Brockie out for at least six weeks with a quad injury.
Behind the front pairing Sydney will be confronted with a deceptively sound midfield that caused Premier League-bound Wolverhampton plenty of trouble last month. Along with Jason Spagnuolo and Robbie Middleby's experience and cool distribution, North Queensland has a pair of excitement machines on the flanks in the form of Freddy Agius and David Williams. Agius scored a brace against Adelaide in the Fury's 3-2 win up in Darwin while fellow former Australian junior Williams has pace to burn and a quality cross to match. But coach Ian Ferguson has taken some big hits for this game, losing key midfielder Ufuk Talay to a calf injury for the next 2-3 matches, while his defence has been weakened by a serious hamstring injury to Jacob Timpano, which will see him miss two months of football.
North Queensland's under-strength defence will be good news for Sydney striker Aloisi, who will be determined to improve on last season's meagre two goals from 16 appearances. The former Socceroo believes he's had his best pre-season in four years, though, saying his touch and confidence has returned to the extent he can re-produce his 2005-06 Primera Liga form, when he was knocking in goals for Alaves like they were going out of fashion.
Aside from Aloisi, Sydney has a much more workmanlike look to it under Czech coach Vitezslav Lavicka, who will be making his A-League debut. The former Sparta Prague manager has enticed one-time Slovakian international Karol Kisel to the SFS along with Swiss defender Stephan Keller to replace the departed Tony Popovic and Iain Fyfe - the incoming pair is sure to get a hot reception from Fowler.
In the centre of the park, fit-again former Perth Glory captain Simon Colosimo will replace the departed Middleby, getting the chance to immediately take on his predecessor in a key midfield battle that could determine this encounter. Colosimo will be assisted by exciting National Youth League products Kofi Danning and Brendan Gan, along with dead-ball specialist Shannon Cole.
In terms of pre-season form, the two teams are poles apart, with Sydney unbeaten in 11 matches, although seven of them were admittedly against lower-league opposition. However, the minutes played and the experience of playing together last season will have helped Sydney to gel as a side under Lavicka. North Queensland, on the other hand, just had one win to its name, but was playing most of its games against established A-League sides and even an English Premier League team. They were beaten 4-0 by Sydney in an early pre-season encounter, but expect a much tougher Fury this time around.
North Queensland Fury Squad: 1. Paul HENDERSON (gk), 2. Robbie MIDDLEBY, 3. Chris TADROSSE, 7. Jason SPAGNUOLO, 9. Robbie FOWLER, 11. David WILLIAMS, 12. Jack HINGERT, 13. Beau BUSCH, 14. Christopher GROSSMAN, 15. Fred AGIUS, 16. Paul KOHLER, 17. Osama MALIK, 18. James ROBINSON, 19. Daniel MCBREEN, 20. Justin PASFIELD (rgk)
Unavailable: Jeremy BROCKIE - quadriceps (6-8 weeks), Jacob TIMPANO - hamstring (8weeks), Ufuk TALAY - calf (2-3 weeks), Scott WILSON - foot (6-8 weeks)
Sydney FC Squad: 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 3. Stephan KELLER, 4. Simon COLOSIMO, 6. Karol KISEL, 7. Brendan GAN, 8. Stuart MUSIALIK, 9. John ALOISI, 10. Steve CORICA (c), 11. Kofi DANNING, 12. Shannon COLE, 14. Alex BROSQUE, 15. Terry MCFLYNN, 17. Matthew JURMAN, 19. Mark BRIDGE, 20. Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 22. Sung Hwan BYUN. *One to be omitted.
Unavailable: 2. Sebastian RYALL (suspended - 4 weeks)