The Philippine Azkals will miss skipper Phil Younghusband and young defender Luke Woodland as they aim to get their World Cup qualifying campaign back on track next week.
Picking up just a single point from their last three matches, the Azkals hope to stay in the hunt for a place in the third round when they battle Yemen at Rizal Memorial Stadium on Nov. 12.
Younghusband, the Azkals skipper, will serve a suspension for picking up yellow cards against Uzbekistan and Bahrain while Woodland has been granted permission to stay with his new club, Chester FC, for the international break.
A free agent since June, when his deal with Bolton ended, Woodland signed with the English fifth-tier club last week.
Sorely missed in games against North Korea and Bahrain, striker Javier Patiño returns to the PH side after helping Henan Jianye to a fifth-place finish in the Chinese Super League.
The Azkals returned to training at McKinley Hill Stadium yesterday with 11 players showing up. The foreign-based Azkals like Neil Etheridge, Jerry Lucena, Rob Gier, Roland Muller, Iain Ramsay, Stephan Schrock and Patiño will start arriving in Manila this week.
As it stands, the Azkals have a mountain to climb to make the third round, which also means automatic entry to the AFC Asian Cup in 2019.
With only seven points from five games, the Azkals need maximum points in their last three games. That will include a trip to Tashkent to play Uzbekistan next year and a clash with North Korea at home.
“We’re left with the almost impossible task of winning all of our last three matches,” said Azkals manager Dan Palami. “We’re still hopeful because we have a chance.”