Desperate to avoid the worst World Cup defence in history, Spain have vowed to field their strongest side against a Socceroos outfit hit with injury and suspension.
Australia will be without banned striker Tim Cahill and fellow veteran Mark Bresciano, who’s battling a hip-flexor complaint, when they line up against the world champions in their final World Cup game in Curitiba on Monday.
With close to 150 caps between them, the Socceroos will be missing their two most experienced players.
Injured midfielder Mark Milligan (hamstring) is also likely to be ruled out.
However coach Ange Postecoglou confirmed goalkeeper Mat Ryan will start against the world No.1 side, saying he has no intention of dropping him after his blunder resulted in the final goal of Australia’s 3-2 loss to Holland .
“Timmy’s out and at this stage it’s doubtful that Bresc or Milligan will get up,” Postecoglou told reporters after training on Saturday.
“They had a bit of a run today and I’ll test them out tomorrow. But if I had to make a call I’d say it’s unlikely that both of them will start. So that’s about 150 caps missing out.”
Spain have already made history of the wrong kind, becoming the first defending champions to be ruled out of contention after two games.
A third straight loss on Monday to Australia will ensure they also become the first defending champions to exit the tournament without securing a point.
In the wake of the Dutch thrashing, coach Vicente del Bosque already rang the changes in the second match against Chile when he dropped Xavi Fernandez and Gerard Pique from the start.
Koke is expected to play against Australia, after he replaced Xabi Alonso in the Chile game.
“We’re going to put together the best lineup for that game,” del Bosque said.
“All my players are potential starters without a doubt. We’ll try to put together the best team.”
Striker Fernando Torres, who has been a key part of Spain’s dominance in recent years, said the players don’t want to go home winless.
“We didn’t show our strengths in the first two games and now we have the chance against Australia,” he said.
“We’re expecting a real tough game. It’s our last chance to win a game at this World Cup and to go back to Spain with three points and show everyone we have a lot of football for the future.”
Australian Matt McKay is likely to retain his spot alongside skipper Mile Jedinak in the holding midfield role, in place of Milligan, who missed the Socceroos’ last game.
But Postecoglou hinted there may be a shuffle in the front third.
The coach may opt to start Adam Taggart in place of Cahill or move Mathew Leckie to the point of attack and start Ben Halloran on the right wing instead.
Oliver Bozanic looks set to fill Bresciano’s playmaker role.