Sainsbury glad to have defensive partner back for Iraq clash
FOOTBALL: Perth-born Socceroos defender Trent Sainsbury will be happy to see some old faces both on and off the field in Thursday night's World Cup qualifier in the West Australian capital against Iraq.
Sainsbury will play in front of friends and family at nib Stadium as well as renewing his partnership with Matthew Spiranovic at the heart of the Australian defence.
Spiranovic has not played for the Socceroos since last year and makes a welcome return to the fold for the next two games, against Iraq followed by the UAE next week in Abu Dhabi.
The two played well together when the Socceroos won the Asian Cup on home soil in January 2015 and Sainsbury was glad to see him back.
"Spira is a great professional and he brings a lot to the team in defence,” he said.
"Me and Bailey (Wright) have gone along pretty well, so it just shows the depth of the squad that we have, and having Spira back as well provides a different outlet for us in a defensive area if we need.”
Bailey is missing from the qualifiers after being injured for club side Preston North End.
He will be replaced by another Perth-based player, Josh Risdon.
Sainsbury said Iraq would make it tough for the Socceroos as they kick off their campaign to reach the finals in Russia in 2018.
"They are a tough team to play against,” he said.
"They have a good core of players and they are probably going to set up to defend against us.
"So we'll have to break them down and do our best to get that goal.
"It's the first game of the qualifiers to get to Russia, so it's always important to get off to a good start with three points.
"Definitely in Australia it doesn't matter who you play, you need to win at home.”
After Thursday's game, the Socceroos will play the UAE on September 6.
With the top two teams in Group B of the Asian qualifiers set to progress automatically to the World Cup, the Socceroos need to get as many points as possible before they host regular adversary Japan in their fourth match on October 11.
That game will be preceded by a trip to Saudi Arabia on October 6.
Veteran Mark Milligan said it was important to hit the ground running.
"The first three games are extremely important for us,” he told Goal Australia.
"If we start well - especially those first two, the one in Perth and then away in the UAE - then obviously there'll be quite a bit of buzz around the Japan game in Melbourne at Etihad.”
Australia is looking to qualify for its fourth consecutive World Cup, with Milligan and Tim Cahill the only two players in the current squad to have been taken to the past three tournaments.