Santi Rublico out for Azkals' friendly vs. Nepal

Santi Rublico will not play for the Azkals against Nepal.
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—Filipino football fans would have to wait for a little while before they can witness Santi Rublico's home debut with the Azkals' senior team as coach Michael Weiss ruled him out for their upcoming FIFA friendly against Nepal.

Weiss bared in an online press conference on Wednesday that Rublico, a member of Atletico Madrid's under-19 team, and Amani Aguinaldo will not suit up on Thursday night's Azkals-Nepal showdown at the Rizal Memorial Stadium and could be ruled out too for the Azkals' other scheduled friendly against Chinese Taipei on Monday night.

"They tried to make everything possible to get back in the group, but unfortunately, they had to pull out," Weiss said.

With him and Aguinaldo out, however, the Azkals are facing a huge void in their center-back positions that need to be filled as soon as possible.

"Particularly, as far as the central defenders are concerned, we will be a little bit short in members," Weiss added.

Last week during a live presser reintroducing him as Azkals coach, Weiss said Manny Ott will not see action as well as he is still recovering from a recent accident, which he reaffirmed during the Zoom media briefing.

With the injury woes quickly piling up, Weiss hinted at the possibility that some footballers would have to play outside their natural positions.

"Sometimes, it's a necessity," Weiss said. "Today's game requires flexibility. I prefer players playing in their positions, but sometimes, it's not possible and they have to take it as it is. It's just normal."

He then said that there are already "candidates" who might need to shift to another position, but he said that everyone will only find out about them come matchday.

"I don't wanna disclose too much," Weiss said.

Meanwhile, Neil Etheridge, the Azkals' longtime starting goalkeeper, is listed as questionable for the Nepal friendly.

According to Weiss, the Birmingham keeper is expected to show up in training later Wednesday, but how he performs in practice could determine if he will make the start against Nepal or reserve him instead for the clash with Chinese Taipei.

Stallion Laguna's Patrick Deyto is likely to get the start if Etheridge would be ruled out on Thursday night, although Kuching's Julian Schwarzer making the starting 11 instead is also possible.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno