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Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Juninho ready for full game in semi

By Adrian Warren

Sydney's midfield maestro Juninho believes he may be ready to play a full game for the first time in almost three months in Friday's A-league soccer minor semi-final first leg with Queensland at Sydney Football Stadium.

Dogged by shoulder and shin injuries during the season, the 34-year-old Brazilian World Cup winner has started only four games this season, the most recent on October 28 last year.

Last weekend, Juninho made his first starting appearance since that game and played almost 80 minutes against Melbourne before being substituted.

"Only in the last 20 minutes my legs didn't respond as they did in the beginning," Juninho said.

Asked whether he now felt ready to play a full game, Juninho took a deep breath and said "yes".

"The body is recovering okay and I'm feeling well now," he said.

"I still have a few problems with my shoulder, but I think my shoulder is improving a lot and I'm so happy about that, I can feel more comfortable on the field."

Juninho queried the decision to move the first leg to Sydney because of concerns over the potential state of the pitch at Suncorp Stadium following a Police concert there on Tuesday night.

"It's a bit strange, we finished third, we should have the advantage, so that's the way it should be," Juninho said.

"It doesn't matter if there is a concert in Queensland, we finished third, we should play the second leg at home."

The well travelled midfielder, who has played in the Brazilian, English, Scottish and Spanish leagues has endorsed the play-off system used in Australia.

Most of the other countries he has played in apart from Brazil utilise a first past the post system without playing finals.

"When you don't have many clubs to play in the league, I think it's (finals) enjoyable for the people who are going to watch and more exciting for the players," Juninho said.

The three league games with Queensland produced only one goal and Juninho anticipated another tight tussle this Friday.

However, he emphasised Sydney should not deviate from the style of game it played in a very open clash against Melbourne last week.

"Queensland are looking to defend a little bit more than Melbourne did, but I think we have to play the same, we have to play with a lot of movement and try to find the gaps to get the goals," Juninho said.

Sydney defender Mark Milligan predicted the midfield clash would be critical to the outcome of Friday's game.

"They are a quality side and they've shown that all year. Their midfield is lightening," Milligan said.

"They run a lot and that's where the game will be won and loss.

"We need to compete with them physically and keep with the endurance of the game in the midfield and I think that will go a very long way to us winning the game."

Milligan said winning wasn't the be all and end all for Sydney on Friday, as he pointed to their excellent unbeaten away record this season.




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