Glory’s Spanish star set to return for showdown


In a huge boost for Perth Glory, striker Andy Keogh says star import Diego Castro will be fit and ready to fire in Sunday’s Elimination Final against Melbourne City at AAMI Park.

Castro missed Glory’s 4-0 loss to Sydney FC last weekend with hamstring tightness but trained strongly with the Kenny Lowe’s squad on Wednesday.

The classy Spaniard – one of the Hyundai A-League’s best players this season – took part in the bulk of the session and was shooting and sprinting with little trouble.

Hyundai A-League stats preview: City v Glory

Having been sorely missed against the Sky Blues, Keogh admits Castro’s return against City is a major boost to their chances of a win at AAMI Park.

“He’s fine. He’s firing shots away there. If anything he was just getting rested [against Sydney],” Keogh told reporters on Wednesday.

Diego Castro

“He’s had a strenuous few weeks so hopefully he’ll be nice and fresh for Sunday

“He’s very important for us. He’s the guy that links the midfield to me and creates so many chances. His quality on the ball shows and he’s rightly getting all the accolades he deserves.”

While the side missed the chance to host a final by losing to Sydney, Keogh believes the decision to rest Castro could work in their favour on Sunday.

Key points:

*Winger Chris Harold, who is also battling a hamstring strain, also trained on Wednesday and is in line to return for the sudden-death final.

Perth Glory forward Chris Harold in possession against the Jets in Round 22.

*Keogh believes the suspension of Harry Novillo for Melbourne City won’t make them any less threatening on Sunday.

*These two sides met just a fortnight ago, with Glory winning 3-2 at nib Stadium.

Having seen the former La Liga star’s quality close-up every day, Keogh says Castro is deservedly being talked up as arguably the best player in the competition.

“People will probably say I’m biased because he’s my team-mate. [Bruno] Fornaroli’s been excellent, so has [Aaron] Mooy,” Keogh explained.

“You have to hold your hand up to a lot of good players in the league but he’s [Castro] definitely been one of the standout performers.

“We link up well, we understand each other and the way he comes to get the ball and my movement, it compliments each other and it makes it hard for other teams to defend,” the Irishman added.

Mitch Oxborrow, Diego Castro and Andy Keogh celebrate Perth's second goal against the Phoenix on Sunday.

Sunday’s clash is redemption of sorts for Glory, after their omission from last year’s Finals Series due to the club’s salary cap dramas.

Asked if the events of 12 months ago made this extra special, Keogh said: “It gives me more satisfaction that we were nearly bottom of the table in January and we’re in the finals now.

“We’re probably the second best form team going into the finals so we have every chance.

“The aim at the start of the season is to play finals and to have a chance to get to the grand final is really good.”