HUDDERSFIELD TOWN head coach David Wagner is refusing to be distracted by the impending loss of Aaron Mooy to the Asia Cup in the new year.
The Australian midfielder netted twice last week in the 2-0 victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers to underline his importance to the Terriers.
Mooy has missed just one game this season, the 6-1 thrashing at Manchester City, but Town will have to learn how to do without their talismanic midfielder come January when he could miss up to five Premier League games plus the third and fourth rounds of the FA Cup.
Australia’s opening group game is against Jordan on January 6, meaning Mooy is likely to fly out before the Burnley home game four days earlier to join up with his international team-mates.
If the Socceroos, ranked as fourth favourites to lift the trophy in the United Arab Emirates, go all the way then the 28-year-old will not return to England until after the February 1 final. Town face Chelsea the following day.
“We are in touch with Australia,” said Wagner when asked about the potential loss of Mooy. “As we have been since Aaron was here. He is always away for the international breaks.
“But this (Asia Cup) is too far away to get our head around. We should not lose any energy – especially Aaron – about what may happen in January.
“The focus has to be on the important things and that means Brighton (tomorrow). Anything else can wait. We know everything we have to know and we try to bring everything to the situation that is suitable for us and the Federation of Australia.
“It is too far away to waste energy on. No-one knows what will happen. It is important to be in touch. Brighton will be the same with their goalkeeper (Mat Ryan).
“We will deal with it and speak with the Federation. Then see what happens when it starts.”
Mooy’s loss for up to five weeks will be keenly felt by Town. Not only has the midfielder shone since arriving at the John Smith’s Stadium on loan during the summer of 2016 but this season his understanding with Jonathan Hogg and Philip Billing in midfield has brought an extra dimension to Huddersfield’s play.
Billing, arguably the most improved player in Wagner’s squad this season, rightly came in for plenty of praise following his performance in the 2-0 win over Wolves at Molineux that was broadcast live by Sky Sports in their prime slot of 4pm on Sunday.
To those who have watched the Denmark Under-21s international regularly this term, his display did not come as a surprise.
But pundits across all the TV and radio networks were left hugely impressed by Billing, much to the satisfaction of Town chief Wagner.
He added: “I love it when my players get praise from pundits, even when we know that pundits are not always right.
“In this case with Phil, they were right by praising him for his performance. I love it when they get praise because it means they have performed to a very high level.”
Billing has started every league game for Huddersfield this term, a boast that can only be matched by Christopher Schindler.
“I can name you not one 22-year-old player who is comparable with him,” added Wagner about the midfielder. “This is the truth. 6ft 6in, left-footed, unbelievable shot, quick, vision, technique, long throw in, endurance and now fighting spirit as well.
“I cannot name you a player. Obviously, I am not a scout and maybe some scouts can tell you differently.
“But what I can tell you is what he has added to his game consistently this season – a mindset for defending, aggression and that the belief it is enjoyable to bring intensity to a game.
“These are the only things that have changed. Everything else, he had before. We knew this maybe more than him before but now he knows it as well.
“He is a player that you rarely find in football with all the skills. Plus now what he has added.”
Asked how far Billing, who joined Town as a teenager from Danish club Esbjerg in 2013, could go in the game, the Terriers chief added: “Phil is enjoying it and he has every right to enjoy it. But we and he should not look too far ahead.
“The most important thing is he should take it game by game. Against Brighton, confirm what you have done so far. Be humble and know nothing can be taken for granted.
“But be confident enough to know that if I bring to the grass what I have then I can be a very, very good player. Like it is for the whole team.
“You have to make sure that one week you get the praise but the next week you get the blame. It makes no sense if you have Phil’s qualities. We try to help him as much as we can.”
Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen is likely to return to the starting XI after sitting out the victory at Molineux through suspension.
Terence Kongolo, however, is rated as “less than 50-50” by Wagner to be available after suffering a knock in that 2-0 triumph.
Laurent Depoitre is another who could miss out after suffering a groin injury.
“We have to keep in our heads all the games in front of us in December,” added the German. “We have to be very careful that we only use players when they are totally healthy.”