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Sydney FC have hit another hurdle in their preparations for the AFC Champions League, with defender Ryan McGowan a chance to miss the entire tournament after testing positive for COVID-19.
McGowan has been in Scotland with his partner and newborn daughter for several months, and had been training with his old club Hearts to keep fit with the intention of meeting his teammates in Qatar over the weekend.
Sydney FC defender Ryan McGowan has been in Scotland with family.Credit:Getty
But the 31-year-old is now in quarantine and won't be able to reach Doha in time for their first clash against Aaron Mooy's Shanghai SIPG on Thursday night, and might not make it at all if he doesn't return a negative test by mid-next week.
In that instance, McGowan would fly straight back to Sydney and into a hotel for two weeks ahead of the start of the A-League season on December 27.
"Obviously he's been training over there, just getting himself fit, but we've come down with some bad news in the last couple of days with him," coach Steve Corica said.
"He's actually got no symptoms. He feels good, but he obviously needs to quarantine now another 10 days and then have another test before he comes. He's already done a few days already. I'm hoping he'll be there before the 20th."
Sydney FC defender Joel King – who played for the Olyroos on Thursday night – skips ahead of teammate Alexander Baumjohann.Credit:Getty
The Sky Blues will already be without first-choice goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne, who has opted to sit out the ACL to stay behind with his pregnant wife due to give birth in January.
Now McGowan's absence leaves them short another key player ahead of a series of games against Shanghai SIPG, Yokohama F. Marinos and Jeonbuk Motors.
Sydney FC will depart on Saturday morning for Qatar, having tuned up with an impressive 3-0 friendly win over the Olyroos on Thursday night at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.
Paulo Retre, Trent Buhagiar and Alexander Baumjohann scored first-half goals in a straightforward victory for Corica's men, who only received official permission from the NSW government enabling to travel earlier in the day.
Players and staff remain very reluctant to fly into Qatar, which is recording around 200 new COVID-19 cases per day, but recognise they have little choice in the face of heavy sanctions from the AFC if they refused.
There is still a fair bit of uncertainty about the tournament – Malaysian side Johor Darul Ta'zim was banned from leaving the country by their government on Thursday and have been forced to withdraw, although that won't directly impact any of the three A-League teams in the group stage.
Corica said his understanding was that Chinese teams will be there, despite suggestions they too had been struggling to gain official clearance.
Success will come at a heavy price for the Sky Blues – if they go beyond the round of 16 they will be in quarantine over Christmas.
"It's not easy," Corica said. "Obviously if we get knocked out of the group we'll be home before Christmas but we want to do well in the competition, so we're going to do our best every game and see what happens.
"You never know what can happen but it would be very tough if we missed Christmas, obviously. A lot of the boys have got young families, young babies as well. It'll be difficult but it's something we have to do at the moment."
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