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Jan 16, 2008

Mark Milligan returns for Sydney FC

Sydney FC have been boosted by the return of Socceroos defender Mark Milligan for Sunday's crunch final-round A-League match against Melbourne.

Milligan has missed Sydney's past two games with a foot injury but is likely to be included in the side that will shoot for the minor premiership at the Sydney Football Stadium.

The sky blues are one of four sides locked on 31 points and vying for top spot and a guaranteed Asian Champions League berth this weekend.

Milligan trained in Pim Verbeek's Socceroos camp on Tuesday and continued to train well with his club this week.

"I hate not being on the pitch and it's even worse when you've got to stay at home for away games and watch it on the television," Milligan said.

"It's been frustrating so hopefully I'll get the last few days training in and be available for selection."

Sydney have minor injury concerns over Robbie Middleby, Ruben Zadkovich and Ufuk Talay for the match and if the latter is ruled out it could pave the way for Brazilian playmaker Juninho to return to the starting side.

Michael Bridges could also be elevated from the bench in what will be his last game in his loan spell with the club before returning to Hull City.

Sydney coach John Kosmina said he would not be selecting the English striker on sentiment for the clash, however.

"I can't afford to, there's too much at stake," Kosmina said.

"He's off and he's been great for the club while he's been here so we'll see what he can offer."

Milligan said the former England under-21 international would be sorely missed by his teammates.

"He's been great value for us off the pitch and he's brought a lot to this team whether it be on the training pitch or in games," he said of Bridges, who has scored twice in his nine games with the club.

"We've been playing very well without him and that's a positive sign for us but it's definitely disappointing to be losing him just before the finals."

Sydney will have a much better idea of what they need to do to push for first or second on Sunday, after fellow contenders Newcastle and Central Coast play their matches on Friday and Saturday respectively.

The top four sides are only separated by goal difference with Queensland on +6, Sydney on +4 and Central Coast and Newcastle on +3.

But Kosmina said Sydney would stay focused on their match.

"We're going to go out to beat Melbourne," Kosmina said.

"If Newcastle win and Central Coast win, we still want to beat Melbourne.

"We'll have an idea of what we need to beat them by though."