City attacking trio offer Socceroos spark

Winger Andrew Nabbout believes Melbourne City’s attacking trio are primed to make an impact if called on to combine in the Socceroos’ crucial World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia.

Mathew Leckie joined Jamie Maclaren and Nabbout at the A-League Men champions in the off-season, with the three attackers spending almost four months developing their chemistry.

Goalscoring ace Maclaren and City recruit Leckie both opted out of the past two international windows to avoid the rigours of hotel quarantine while Nabbout is aiming to make his first national team appearance since the 2019 Asian Cup.

With playmakers Tom Rogic and Aaron Mooy unavailable and striker Adam Taggart injured, all three of Maclaren, Leckie and Nabbout are likely to play at some point on Thursday night in Sydney as Graham Arnold bids to unlock the unbeaten Saudis’ defence.

Australia, who will be boosted by playing in front of a home crowd for the first time since October 2019, are second their qualifying group behind Saudi Arabia.

“We’ve had 15 weeks together. We’ve been gelling really well. In the games we’ve been linking up, our combinations are really coming together,” Nabbout said.

“I know what they’re both like now and I know what I’m looking for when I’m on the ball and they’re both unbelievable players to play with and top professionals.

“I love being out there getting our combinations together and gelling together and it’s great that we’re in the Socceroos together. 

“We’re here, and we’re going to inject as much energy as possible.”

Nabbout shot to Socceroos prominence before the 2018 World Cup, when he was Bert van Marwijk’s first-choice striker, but issues with form and fitness set him back for almost two years before he rejuvenated his career at City last season.

The 28-year-old said he’d matured significantly in recent years and felt primed to make an impact, having fully recovered from the serious adductor injury that scuppered a planned June call-up.

“Going to the World Cup in Russia was definitely the biggest honour I’ve ever had and my ultimate goal is to be on the plane for this one as well, to work as hard as I can to get out there and help the boys,” he said. 

“Football’s a roller coaster, I’ve had ups and downs since then, I’ve had a couple of injuries here and there. 

“But physically, I’m the best I’ve ever felt, so I’m excited.

“It’s the first time I’ve been in (the squad) in a while so I’m really, really hungry to get out there and help the boys as much as I can.”