FOOTBALL: Captain Mile Jedinak will be given an extra week to prove his fitness after being named in Ange Postecoglou's preliminary squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Japan and Thailand.
But aside from the returning Jedinak, Postecoglou's 30-man group is largely about continuity, with 22 of the 23 players who went to the Confederations Cup in June featuring.
The matches against Japan in Saitama on August 31 and Thailand at AAMI Park on September 5 will determine whether the Socceroos qualify directly for Russia or be thrown into a pair of cut-throat two-legged playoffs.
With just these two matches to play, Australia is third in Group B, a point behind Japan and trailing Saudi Arabia on goal difference - with the group leaders to also meet in the Middle East on September 5.
Jedinak has been battling a groin injury since the latter stages of last season.
He played 90 minutes against Saudi Arabia in a qualifier in June only to be subsequently ruled out of the Confeds Cup with the injury, which he had surgery on soon after.
The 33-year-old has missed the first two games of Aston Villa's English Championship season and is considered to be in some doubt for the Socceroos qualifiers.
But with Postecoglou not needing to trim his squad to 23 until next Wednesday, the Asian Cup-winning leader has an extra eight days' grace.
The last match he played was that qualifier at the Adelaide Oval, while he has not played for Villa since April 23.
Villa boss Steve Bruce said on Friday that "we're hoping in the next 10 days or so" Jedinak can return to the pitch.
Portugal-based Dylan McGowan is the only player from the 23-man Confederations Cup squad to miss selection for these matches.
The other players added are fit-again defenders Matthew Spiranovic (Hangzhou Greentown) and Brad Smith (Bournemouth), goalkeeper Adam Federici (Bournemouth), selection bolter Matthew Jurman (Suwon Bluewings), as well as Mustafa Amini (Aarhus Gymnastikforening), Awer Mabil (Pacos de Ferreira) and Riley McGree (Club Brugge).
"We haven't strayed too far from the players who went to the Confederations Cup and who we have had on the radar for a while, so not a great deal of change at this stage," Postecoglou said.
"There are a few new faces as well to have a look at, but overall pretty pleased with the shape we are in."
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