Former Liverpool star Luis Garcia to make debut for Mariners on Saturday

Luis GarciaFormer Liverpool star Luis Garcia is set to make his debut for Central Coast Mariners on Saturday against Western Sydney Wanderers despite arriving in Australia just two days before.

The Mariners’ marquee player arrives in Sydney early on Thursday morning and will likely have just one full training session with his new club before making his A-League debut. In terms of name and broader appeal, Garcia is one of the biggest signings in the club’s history and the Mariners are eager to ensure their prized recruit spends as much time on the field in his minimum 12-game deal with the club.

Mariners coach Tony Walmsley was coy as to whether Garcia will start in his first game at the club but insists the 37-year-old will almost certainly make it onto the field at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday whether it be in the first 11 or from the bench.

“I don’t want say he’ll start, I don’t want to say he’ll be on the bench either, I want to say he’ll be involved in the match day squad,” Walmsley said.

Despite spending most of his career as a winger, the former Liverpool, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona player will be deployed as a central attacking midfielder by the Mariners. With the likes of Fabio Ferreira and Mitch Austin on either flank and the promising Liam Rose playing behind, the Mariners are eager to use the experience, technique and ability of Garcia to improve their standard.

“He’s the type of player that in a team of ours that’s full of willing workers – he can find room with the technique and make it count. I’m not expecting him to go box to box but get into pockets,” Walmsley said.

Garcia has not played competitive football for over a year since last playing in the Indian Super League in December 2014 however the Mariners believe he will be fit enough to compete at a high level in the A-League.

“When you look at Luis’ current training regime, he’s doing things that some of our players can’t do. We’ve got a high expectation that he’ll be able to compete,” Walmsley said. “He’s a very fit individual. You only have to look at his recent Instagram feeds of his football-specific power training to realise that he’s quite an extraordinary athlete.”

The signing of Garcia has already gathered the attention of an Australian-based Liverpool supporter group who will attend Saturday’s match and sit in a designated supporters’ bay for the Spaniard. Bay 10 will be dubbed “The Luis Garcia bay” which is expected to be sold out with a high demand from EPL fans who don’t regularly attend Australian football games.

Central Coast Mariners further bolstered their attacking stocks with the signing of former Young Socceroo Matthew Fletcher. The former Sheffield Wednesday and Sunderland youth team player has recently been on trial with the club and could also be eligible to make his debut against the Wanderers.

The Mariners are also close to securing a deal to sign former Wanderers and Perth Glory winger Youssouf Hersi whose move has been delayed by passport issues. Hersi, 33, has been without a club since leaving the Glory at the end of last season and will also add some much needed experience to the young Mariners’ squad and bolster their defence for next season.

“Hersi coming in will give us that competitive edge in key areas of the pitch hopefully and that’s it. The main focus for us is next season and we’ll be looking at strengthening our centre of defence, strengthening our No.10 position,” Walmsley said.

Meanwhile, Sydney appears set to host the Socceroos vital World Cup Qualifying match against Jordan in March.

The match is Australia’s final game of the first round of qualifiers and could decide who finishes on top and looks set to be played at Allianz Stadium.

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