Sydney FC’s squad was put to the test with their two marquee players under an injury cloud following a 2-0 defeat to Japanese powerhouse Kashima Antlers on Wednesday evening.

Sydney’s credentials in the AFC Champions League took another blow as they were once again outplayed on the international stage by the Antlers on their own turf for their second loss in a week.

With Ninkovic absent through injury and Bobo starting on the bench nursing a back injury the Sky Blues were forced to rotate their squad and provide starting roles to players which have been starved of game time in the A-League.

Unlike most sides in the A-League Sydney have been able to name an almost identical line up for much of the season with coach Graham Arnold relying heavily on his experienced and trusted starting eleven.

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Last night’s encounter demonstrated the Sky Blues’ vulnerability when it comes to making forced changes to their proven starting line-up.

Sydney utility players David Carney and Matt Simon filled in for the injured duo in last night’s clash. Between them the pair have managed just 15 starts throughout the domestic campaign with Simon starting just two matches prior to yesterday’s showdown.

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Sky Blues’ captain Alex Brosque conceded that his side failed to replace their two marquee signings in their crucial Champions League encounter.

“When Bobo and Ninkovic aren’t there, you’re missing quality players,” Brosque said.

“We do have players to replace them, we’ve done it in the past but we didn’t do it tonight.”

With the injury toll rising, Arnold had little choice but to name a young bench. Apart from Paulo Retre and Bobo, the five substitutes had amassed just 33 appearances between them.

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These fringe players have been unable to dislodge Sydney’s deadly attacking force throughout the A-League campaign but nevertheless Arnold has backed them to perform in the Champions League.

“Because of the form of Ninkovic, Bobo, Brosque and Adrian, it doesn’t give the kids much of an opportunity,” Arnold said.

“But they will get an opportunity, whether it’s for two games, three games or ten, fifteen minutes. It gives these kids an opportunity to grow.”

Arnold’s side have three matches remaining in the ACL to salvage a revival with a slim chance of progressing past the group stage. However, injuries to key players combined with a lack of experience throughout the squad will ultimately cost them any hope of qualification.

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Studying Journalism at UTS. Obsessed with football and a die hard supporter of Sydney FC and Liverpool FC in the EPL