Mickael Tavares ruled out for Sydney FC but Graham Arnold backs Rhyan Grant to shine

Still not 100 per cent: Sydney FC midfielder Mickael Tavares stretches at training on Thursday. Photo: Daniel Munoz Still not 100 per cent: Sydney FC midfielder Mickael Tavares stretches at training on Thursday. Photo: Daniel Munoz
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Still not 100 per cent: Sydney FC midfielder Mickael Tavares stretches at training on Thursday. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Still not 100 per cent: Sydney FC midfielder Mickael Tavares stretches at training on Thursday. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Golden boots: Sydney FC’s Bernie Ibini trains on Thursday. Photo: Daniel Munoz

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While Sydney FC have been dealt a significant blow ahead of Friday night’s match against Perth Glory with key midfielder Mickael Tavares ruled out, coach Graham Arnold believes the veteran’s replacement, Rhyan Grant, is capable of filling the breach.

Tavares has been a revelation since joining the club during the summer transfer window but suffered a groin injury in last weekend’s 1-0 loss to Adelaide, with initial fears that he may be sidelined for some time.

While scans cleared him of serious injury – Tavares was even permitted to take part in some moderate drills at training on Thursday – Arnold said there was no point risking the Senegalese international.

“It was too short a turnaround. If the game was on Sunday, he probably would have played,” Arnold said. “It’s Friday night and with travel to Perth, it’s not easy sitting in a plane for five hours on the way there with a groin strain.”

Despite the 32-year’s old absence from defensive midfield, Arnold was quick to point to Grant as the perfect replacement – even if he doesn’t want the recently re-signed utility fulfilling that role beyond this season.

“I don’t like moving Rhyan around. The discussions that I had with him when I re-signed him were about concentrating on him being a right fullback,” Grant said. “But he missed a lot of the pre-season. He missed a lot of the tactical sessions at the start of the year. We pretty much agreed that for the rest of the year he’ll be used in numerous roles but in the off-season we’ll be concentrating on him being a right fullback. I’ve seen enough of Rhyan over the years, especially since I’ve been at the club, that he can fill any role and fill it very well.”

Terry Antonis may also have been an option to replace Tavares had he been fit but the Socceroos’ midfielder continues to be plagued by an ongoing knee injury. “Terry has had another injection. He’s had an MRI scan – he’s got some swelling on the tendon joint under the bone in his knee. But he’s not training at all at the moment,” Arnold said. “We’re hopeful we can get something out of him before the finals series.”

The match will take place with Perth still not knowing how badly their season will be affected by the FFA’s investigation into alleged salary cap rorting.

“From the start of the pre-season, of 20 weeks of hard pre-season, then a lot of travelling and lot of work, they might end up with nothing. That’s probably the only concern that the players would have,” Arnold said of the Glory’s predicament. “For us, whether they’ve got 44 points or zero points, tomorrow night is about three points and we’ve got to win and get our points to put us in a position that we want to be, on merit.”

Sydney may have some salary cap issues of their own next season, even if that concerns the unenviable task of potentially paying players below their market value.

“The hardest thing about management is that you develop players who are on minimum wage, and they want more. You bring players into the club who do well and they want more. So unfortunately, some players have to leave or move on or accept that what this club can provide for them [is good enough],” Arnold said. “Here they get everything provided for them. They get a wonderful training facility, they get fed lunch and breakfast every day and the best medical treatment. Sometimes to go another club, for an extra $20,000-$30,000, doesn’t help their career.”

One player the Sky Blues are battling to keep is Shane Smeltz, who has been offered a big pay rise to finish his career in Malaysia – an attractive option for a veteran striker wanting more game time.

“Shane is a wonderful pro and it’s a tough decision for me every week to have to pick out of Marc [Janko] and Shane but Marc has scored 16 goals in 20 games,” Arnold said. “If we let Shane go, we can’t replace him because the transfer window is closed and FFA rules state also that you have to have 20 players on your roster. If we let him go we’ve only got 19.”

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