Robbie Kruse has been left out of Melbourne Victory’s AFC Champions League squad, with the Socceroos attacker to instead focus on regaining full fitness for the upcoming A-League season.
Kruse, 32. missed the closing stages of the Victory’s disappointing 2019-20 A-League campaign in July and August after suffering a knee injury at training.
He successfully underwent surgery on his knee, and has been training in recent weeks with his Victory teammates.
But rather than fly to Qatar with the Victory squad on Thursday for the remainder of the club’s 2020 Champions League commitments, Kruse will stay in Melbourne to ensure his fitness for the new A-League season starting on December 27.
“He’s returned ahead of schedule, he’s already on the grass, (but) of course we can’t push him until we get the green light from his surgeon in terms where we can go and how quickly we can move that forward,” Victory coach Grant Brebner said.
“He’s like another new signing for me. moving forward but he won’t be going to Qatar.
“It doesn’t make sense to take him all the way over there in terms of what we’re under quarantine wise, so he’ll stay here and continue his rehab and then hopefully meet up with us in Sydney when we come back.”
The Victory squad will spend two weeks in quarantine in Sydney when they return to Australia next month, and are hopeful of being allowed to train together in that time.
Depending on how far they progress in the Champions League, the Victory’s start to the A-League might be delayed and they could be forced to spend Christmas and/or New Year’s Day in a Sydney hotel.
“It’s going to be tough but I have spoken to the players about it – it’s not something we’re shirking away from,” Brebner said.
“We’re going to the competition. We want to win games, and if it means that we’re in a hotel over Christmas and New Year, it means we’re doing really well.
“That’s the price we’ll pay, but I think it’s worth it if we do well in this competition.”
In Qatar, the Victory are certain to play four Group E matches – two against Beijing FC (China), and the others against Chiangrai United (Thailand) and FC Seoul (South Korea).
Currently third in their group on three points, the Victory must finish in the top two to progress to the knockout stages of the competition.
“It will be a fantastic opportunity to play a pre-season in a competition that means something, and get as much as we can out of it with a view to coming back here and starting our A-League campaign,” Brebner said.