Silver linings abound as Macarthur face fixture congestion

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Forgivingly, Ante Milicic’s men are still navigating the hangover that accompanies a 36-day break from football. And, with an unrelenting barrage of fixtures to be played in the weeks to come, match fitness is of utmost importance.

Their fast-breaking 2-2 draw with Western United on Tuesday afternoon provided a ruthless return to A-League Men action. Milicic revealed just how dusty parts of his squad remain when he addressed the media on Friday Morning.

“No injury concerns came out of Tuesday’s game but after 36 days off, there’s a lot of fatigue, stiffness and some soreness as well. To be honest, even today in training there were players who couldn’t complete the full session,” he said.

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“I think we’re better for having the run [against Western United]. With all that time off and players getting COVID at different times, it’s so hard to replicate game intensity. So those match minutes they got the other night will help the boys.”

The Bulls now face a mammoth month of ALM football as they play catch-up with the clubs more fortunate in the length of their enforced hiatus. Their six games in the next 23 days will almost double their matches tally for this season.

Whilst they are slowly recuperating fitness, although daunting, their league position should bring a wealth of optimism to the Bullpen.

Macarthur remain in a very promising league position given other teams’ failure to capitalise upon their absence. They sit in fifth place on 14 points with leader’s Sydney FC sit on just 16 points with four more games played than the Bulls. If results, both inside and outside of their control, go their way, Macarthur could establish a runaway lead on the competition.

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Aside from a general lack of match fitness, Macarthur’s time off has actually seen an improvement in available personnel.

In the Boxing Day defeat to Sydney FC, Macarthur were missing Filip Kurto, Ulises Dávila, Al Hassan Toure and with Jordon Mutch restricted to a bench start. Fast forward to the game against Western United: Mutch and Kurto both started, with Toure and club captain Dávila coming off the bench.

Another significant boost is the signing of former Socceroo, Apostolos Giannou, announced almost exactly in the middle of the Bulls’ COVID break. The 32 year-old has scored twice for the Australian men’s team and his new coach looks forward to utilising him with greater success than his recent coaches in Europe and Asia.

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“He’s settled in really well. He’s a quality player and is one that I’ve worked with as well so I know what his character’s like. He really struggled for match minutes in the last couple of years, with OFI Crete in Greece for example,” Milicic said.

“But again, my thing is for him to be playing again with a smile on his face and enjoying his football. We’ll get to see his quality.”

Macarthur will face Wellington Phoenix on Sunday night at Campbelltown Stadium, with hopes of bettering the 1-1 result in the reverse fixture back in round one.

“We’re expecting a tough game but if you look at this league, anything’s possible on the day. If we can execute our plans, we know that we’ll put ourselves in a position to get the points,” the coach said.

Feature Image Credit: Macarthur FC

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Tom Macrae
Tom Macraehttp://medium.com/@macraetomr23
Communications undergrad at Western Sydney University covering Macarthur FC in the 2021/22 season. Newcastle United. Jack Grealish fangirl.

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