After a regular season peppered with tumultuous undertones, Sydney FC have the chance to move to within a game of the club’s third A-League grand final appearance, as they head south to take on bitter enemies Melbourne Victory in a crunch elimination final at Etihad Stadium on Friday night.
The fifth placed Sky Blues will take plenty of confidence from their back-to-back wins over Wellington and Perth at home, as they prepare for a Melbourne outfit that is coming off a three-day turnaround, following their ACL triumph over Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande on Tuesday night.
The last time the two teams met at Etihad was Australia Day this year, when Sydney chalked up a memorable 5-0 thrashing thanks largely to a stellar performance from Italian maestro Alessandro Del Piero.
After somewhat of a late season slump, ADP has been in fine form over the past fortnight and again poses a massive threat to Kevin Muscat’s men in this sudden-death showdown. The fact that Serbian striker Ranko Despotovic is a strong chance of returning from a five-week layoff due to a knee injury, also bodes well for the Sky Blues’ chances.
The Victory’s attacking quadrant of Finkler, Troisi, Barbarouses and Archie have been firing on all cylinders of late, but with the experience of the Og Monster and Petkovic in the centre, and the natural defensive tendencies of both Jurman and Ryall on the wings, Sydney’s back four is well equipped to handle anything the Victory throw at them, at least when the Sky Blues’ shape is intact.
The problem for the visitors – as it has been all season long – will be ensuring not to turn the ball over cheaply in midfield, as this will open up opportunities for the home side to exploit.
If Frank Farina’s men do come out on top, then they will be hoping that Adelaide advance past Central Coast in the other elimination final, as not only will that see Sydney avoid Premiers’ Plate winners Brisbane the following week, but it will set up a mouth-watering, do-or-die derby blockbuster against WSW.
Have your say: How confident are you that Sydney can get the job done against Melbourne? And which player(s) need to step up for the Sky Blues to stay alive in the 2014 A-League finals series?
Sydney FC squad: 1.Ivan NECEVSKI, 2.Seb RYALL, 4.Ranko DESPOTOVIC, 5.Matt JURMAN, 6.Nikola PETKOVIC, 10.Alessandro DEL PIERO (c), 11.Richard GARCIA, 13.Sasa OGNENOVSKI,16.Joel CHIANESE, 17.Terry ANTONIS, 18.Peter TRIANTIS, 20.Vedran JANJETOVIC, 21.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 22.Ali ABBAS, 24.Hagi GLIGOR, 28.Matt THOMPSON, 29.Alec UROSEVSKI, 34.Aaron CALVER