Coach Frank Farina says Sydney FC have thrived under pressure since his mid-season arrival and that will hold them in good stead for their “grand final” clash with Brisbane.
Only victory in their final-round A-League match on Thursday night at Suncorp Stadium will guarantee fifth-placed Brisbane or sixth-placed Sydney a place in the top six and a finals berth.
“I think Brisbane are aware of that and we are and all the players are certainly, so this is a grand final,” Farina said.
Both sides are locked on 32 points, ahead of Perth (31) and Newcastle (31) who play Adelaide United and Western Sydney Wanderers respectively later over the Easter period.
Sydney FC suffered a blow on the eve of the match with star defender Lucas Neill ruled out with a hamstring injury but Farina remains upbeat about his team’s chances.
Farina took over Sydney FC in November from Ian Crook when the club was at the bottom of the A-League ladder.
The Sky Blues coach insists the pressure has been on from the day he arrived and his players have responded well to it.
“We were sitting dead last and every game has been a pressure situation for the players,” he said.
“They know they had to get results and – to be in this position from where they were – is pretty good.
“In terms of pressure, I haven’t seen anyone succumb to that. I think more the point is they’ve thrived on it.”
Central defender Neill’s place is expected to taken by Tiago Calvano while the Sky Blues welcome back skipper Terry McFlynn from a hamstring injury to replace the suspended Brett Emerton.
The Roar will rush unused Socceroo Jade North straight back into central defence for the match.
Roar coach Mike Mulvey confirmed North would start against Sydney despite playing no part in preparations after being in Australia’s squad for Tuesday night’s 2-2 World Cup qualifier against Oman.
“He’s proven that he’s a big-game player in the past. He’s already an A-League winner,” said Mulvey of the former Newcastle Jet.
“That experience will be very, very important.”
Sydney are coming off a 1-1 draw with competition leaders Western Sydney, while Brisbane were too good for Melbourne Heart last round, beating them 2-0.
Mulvey stressed the Roar, who boast the best goal difference, would not be playing for a draw.
“We’re not thinking like that – we’re going for the win. We want to take care of business so we don’t have to think about any other permutations other than who we are playing next week,” he said.