Socceroos suffer setback before play-off

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The Socceroos have suffered a double blow on the eve of their World Cup play-off against the United Arab Emirates with Trent Sainsbury and Adam Taggart set to miss the must-win match.

Central defender Sainsbury and striker Taggart were both absent from Monday's final training session at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Doha, Qatar, while fullback Jason Davidson only completed light duties.

Both Sainsbury and Taggart picked up niggles during the week and are expected to not feature in the 23-man squad for the game which kicks off at 9pm on Tuesday (4am AEST Wednesday).

The news is a setback for coach Graham Arnold with Sainsbury, in particular, a regular starter during the qualifying campaign.

His absence will most likely allow Bailey Wright to start in the centre of defence after his goalscoring return to the Socceroos in last week's 2-1 friendly win over Jordan, partnering Milos Degenek.

Taggart, who hasn't featured for the Socceroos since the 2-1 loss to Japan in Saitama last October, was pushing for a start up front against Jamie Maclaren and Mitch Duke.

One player who is almost certain to start for Arnold is star midfielder Aaron Mooy.

With Tom Rogic absent due to personal reasons, a lot of the attacking onus will fall on the former English Premier League midfielder.

Arnold says the 31-year-old, who hasn't played a minute of club football since January, came through a priceless hour against Jordan in good shape.

"That was a perfect hit-out for us against Jordan," Arnold said.

"Pretty much the whole purpose of playing that game was for Aaron Mooy to get fit and get ready because we know how important Aaron is to the team.

"He pulled up very well from the game. He played probably longer than what I expected him to play and when we took him off after 60 minutes, he said that he still felt that he had a lot more minutes left in him."

The late drama aside with Sainsbury and Taggart, Arnold believes his team is mentally and physically ready to beat the Emiratis and set up an inter-continental play-off against Peru next week with a spot at November's World Cup for the victor.

"We're not looking at anything behind us," Arnold said.

"Everything's in front of us, and that's from the first game, and that's tomorrow night.

"So physically, we're in great shape. Mentally, the boys are in great spirits.

"I believe with that mental Aussie strength that we will come through."

The 40,000-seater venue, which is one of eight stadia which will host World Cup matches at the end of the year, is expected to be about half-full.

UAE fans are set to vastly outnumber Australian supporters in the crowd, but Arnold says his team's record in the Middle East during their qualifying campaign gives him confidence.

"Since I've taken over four years ago, probably out of 18 qualifiers we played 14 in the Middle East and we're very comfortable here," he said.

"Of course, there's going to be more fans from the UAE but I think that will help us as well.

"We've played here before and we will feel comfortable and I think the neutral fans will also be supporting us."

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