Transfer activity an Asian Cup distraction, reveals Arnold

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Australia coach Graham Arnold admits keeping his players' minds focused on the Asian Cup is tough amid football's January transfer window.

The Socceroos head into their final Group B clash against Syria in Al Ain with their fate still undecided despite an impressive 3-0 win over Palestine on Friday.

Australia will seal second spot in the group and safe passage to the last 16 with a win or a draw against Syria, but a defeat will leave them relying on group winners Jordan defeating the Palestinians to keep their title defence alive.

Since the victory over Palestine in Dubai, centre-back Milos Degenek has completed a big-money move from Serbian club Red Star Belgrade to Saudi Arabian powerhouse Al Hilal.

Transfer talk is also surrounding striker Jamie Maclaren, who's been linked to an A-League return with Melbourne City, while left-back Alex Gersbach is reportedly being sought out by Eredivisie side NAC Breda.

"It's a new one, that's for sure," Arnold said of the challenge of competing in a tournament during the January window.

"Keeping them focused on their job and keeping them focused on what we're doing while they're getting agents calling them with offers. Some are getting offers with crazy money.

"At the same time, I'm fully aware of what's going on so I can talk to the players about it and remove it from their minds while they're representing us."

Arnold believes mentality will be the key against a fired-up Syrian team, who sacked former Perth Glory coach Bernd Stange last week after a 2-0 loss to Jordan left them with one point and no goals from their two group matches in the UAE.

Australia will be forced into at least one change with defender Trent Sainsbury suspended following a second booking of the tournament against Palestine.

Captain Mark Milligan shifting to defence from midfield and Massimo Luongo returning to the starting line-up looks the most likely solution to Sainsbury's absence, especially with the 33-year-old Milligan spending most of Sunday's tactical drills in Al Ain alongside Degenek.

Andrew Nabbout has recovered from a groin strain and is pushing for selection but Arnold appears set to continue with the three-pronged strike force of Awer Mabil, Maclaren and Chris Ikonomidis, which performed so well against Palestine.

Arnold says Stange's sacking won't change his approach to the match, given new coach Fajr Ibrahim has had less than a week in charge.

"We've got a great analysis team and we know all the players, we know their strengths and weaknesses," Arnold said.

"And at the end of the day it's a short time in charge for him to change too much."

Source AAP