After the Aussies’ shock 2-0 defeat to Jordan last month, the Socceroos have little room for error against 124th-ranked Kyrgyzstan.
Aleksandr Krestinin’s side put up an impressive fight in Bishkek in June, and head to the nation’s capital with their own qualification hopes on a knife edge.
Kyrgyzstan are currently third in the group, just one point behind the Socceroos, so this is almost their last chance to stay alive in qualifying for the World Cup.
For that reason, this looms as a tricky test for the green and gold and a night of World Cup drama for the fans in the nation’s capital.
Worryingly for Socceroo boss Ange Postecoglou, there are a few injury concerns to consider when trying to come up with his starting XI.
With another qualifier against Bangladesh just five days later, Postecoglou may opt to save a couple of players who aren’t quite 100% for what will be a difficult test in Dhaka next Tuesday.
For Thursday’s game, starting XI defender Matthew Spiranovic was ruled out on Monday, while number one Mat Ryan and attacker Mat Leckie appear very long odds to play.
Ryan has had just four training sessions after returning from a two-month lay-off with a knee injury, while a respiratory illness means Leckie will only join the squad just over 24 hours before kick-off.
There’s also some doubt over left-back Jason Davidson, who is battling a calf problem which has restricted him to only light duties in training.
But even with all those injury concerns, the Socceroos have the depth and quality.
Skipper Mile Jedinak returns to bolster a midfield that oozes technical quality. His leadership in Amman was missed.
Canberra boy Tom Rogic, in-from Aaron Mooy, Mark Milligan and Massimo Luongo should ensure the home side have the bulk of possession as they seek to control the tempo.
And in attack, the likes of Tim Cahill, Tomi Juric, Nathan Burns and James Troisi are all in strong form with their clubs.
The pitch at GIO Stadium looks sensational and will suit the Socceroos fast-paced passing game much more than what they encountered on a bumpy surface in Bishkek.
The weather could be a factor, though, with storms set to hit Canberra in the build-up to the match on Thursday night.
Kyrgyzstan troubled Australia on the counter-attack in Bishkek, in particular through their wingers Mirlan Murzaev and Anton Zemlianukhin.
It’s likely to be an area they will look to exploit again, especially with some new faces likely to be in Australia’s back four.
But back on home soil, the Socceroos generally take it to a new level.
They won’t give the visitors any time to breathe in possession and – like Bangladesh experienced in Perth in September – they will look to kill the game with an early onslaught.
It should be a fascinating encounter in the nation’s capital as the Road to Russia 2018 heats up.
Football Federation Australia