Arnold primed for Sydney resurgence

26 December 2012 05:42

Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold is bracing himself for an improved Sydney FC side on Thursday.

The Mariners embarrassed Sydney in their previous A-League clash on November 3, with a Daniel McBreen hat-trick guiding the 2010-11 grand finalists to a thumping 7-2 victory at Bluetongue Stadium.

Ian Cook resigned four games later, leading to the appointment of former Australia coach Frank Farina.

The dual A-League champions have shown signs of progress under Farina, winning one of their past three fixtures, and Arnold is expecting a difficult encounter for his table-topping outfit.

“One thing about his (Farina’s) teams are that they are well organised,” Arnold said on Wednesday.

“He’s doing a good job down there at Sydney. I think you can already see the improvement in the side.

“I think there will probably be a bit of talk in their dressing room about revenge after the last occasion we played them.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re on our game. We’ve got to be mentally and tactically prepared for the game.

“Physically, both teams had a game four days ago, so it’s the same for both of us and we’ve just got to go out there and do what we can do.”

The Mariners blew the game wide open in that round five match, netting four second-half goals in 10 minutes after Sydney had pegged the scores back to 3-2.

But Arnold is aware Thursday’s showdown will be different.

“It’s a whole new occasion,” he said.

“That night we were red hot and we were playing at Bluetongue.

“They’re at home this time and they’ve got a different manager in charge now.

“Frankie is a wonderful coach and no doubt Sydney will end up getting up the table. We’ve got to try and make sure it’s not tomorrow night.”

Emerging central defender Zac Anderson will partner Patrick Zwaanswijk in the back four against Sydney, with Trent Sainsbury set to move to right back in the absence of the suspended Pedj Bojic.

Del Piero in no rush to decide future

26 December 2012 03:57

Alessandro Del Piero says he is in no rush to finalise his Sydney FC future as he pours all his energy into helping them resurrect their season.

Del Piero’s stay in the harbour city beyond this season is still unclear, with the Sky Blues yet to decide whether they will take up the option of a second year for the veteran.

The former Italian international has been a shining light in what has been a horror campaign for the two-time champions, who are running last with just three wins from 12 games.

Del Piero is desperate for the club to get things right on the field and while admitting he is loving life in Sydney, he is prepared to put contract talks aside to focus on hauling the Sky Blues up the table.

“I have spent a really good time here,” the 2006 World Cup winner told reporters on Wednesday.

“We have time to discuss that but at the moment the best thing for me, the club, the players and everyone is to concentrate on the games.

“We have to worry about this next period because it’s very difficult for us and we have to put all our energy, mental and physical, into it.

“I’m not worried about other things. I’m really enjoying it … but now have to win a couple more games for more enjoyment.”

Asked when he hoped to have his future resolved, Del Piero said: “Everything is clear for me and the club.

“We can do it earlier than what we think but the contract is not a stress for me.

“I’m really happy to be here. I want to put all my knowledge and heart into this at the moment and not to talk about (a new deal).”

The Sky Blues are six points adrift of the finals spots ahead of a tough three-game stretch which starts with league leaders Central Coast at Allianz Stadium on Thursday.

Tough away trips against Adelaide and Perth all follow within 10 days in a period that is likely to define the club’s season.

“It’s not too late but the time is rolling and that’s why we have to move quicker and get some points,” Del Piero said.

“We are in trouble for sure. We’ve had a lot of losses, injuries … but this is not an excuse for us.

“We understand we’re not in (the best) confidence to play a game without pressure and stress but this is the hurdle we have to jump over with heart, fight, passion and hopefully some luck for us.”

Phoenix nearing best form, says Herbert

26 December 2012 03:34

Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert believes his side are close to hitting top form ahead of their clash against the Melbourne Heart.

Herbert’s men sit seventh in the A-League – three points adrift of the Newcastle Jets – ahead of the crucial encounter at Westpac Stadium on Thursday.

Despite being winless in their past three outings, Herbert said the Phoenix were close to collecting a much-needed three points.

“We did some good things the other night (against Central Coast) and if we can keep building on that I don’t think we will be too far away,” he said.

“I don’t think I’ll change the team, but there are things we need to be better on.

“We talked about the crossing, and the set play delivery in particular wasn’t where it needs to be so you’ll see someone else taking up that role tomorrow.”

Herbert is expected to stick with the same team that came from behind to secure a 1-1 draw against the high-flying Mariners in New Zealand.

The Phoenix’s meeting with the Heart will be the second clash of four in 15 days for Herbert’s men.

Herbert said he was pleased with the way his squad was responding to the busy run of fixtures.

“This is a tough period, but it is exciting,” he said.

“Football through Christmas is pretty traditional now and being at home tomorrow night is a good chance to put down a marker.

“We’ve been careful with the players since Saturday to make sure we have a full squad to choose from and it appears to have worked.”

Heart coach John Aloisi will be without central defenders Simon Colosimo and Patrick Gerhardt for the encounter due to suspension.

But, having seen his team draw 1-1 at AAMI Park earlier this year with several first-team regulars missing, Herbert said he had little sympathy for the Heart.

“I’m sure they will wish those two were in but it is hard to feel sorry for them considering we had eight players missing when we played them in the first round,” Herbert said.

“They are a solid side and will feel hard done by that they didn’t get anything from the derby so we will need to be at our best.”

Ferguson talks up Wanderers

26 December 2012 01:38

Perth Glory coach Ian Ferguson remains confident his side have what it takes to down Western Sydney Wanderers.

The Wanderers stunned Adelaide United last time out, thrashing John Kosmina’s men 6-1 in a shock result.

Glory also tasted victory in week 12, securing their first away win of the season at Brisbane to set up a mouth-watering clash with the in-form Wanderers at Patersons Stadium on Thursday.

“They (Western Sydney) are a team that has made a lot of progress over the last nine or 10 games,” Ferguson said.

“They create a lot of chances and are very well organised.

“I thought it was only a matter of time before the goals started flowing for them because they’ve got good players in (Shinji) Ono, (Youssouf) Hersi and (Dino) Kresinger.

“They are a very strong and powerful side who are quick on the counter-attack and Mark Bridge is on fire at the moment as well, so it’s going to be a very tough game.

“But we’re looking forward to it.

“We’re coming off the back of two good results ourselves and we’re back at home, which is great and our confidence should be sky high.”

Ferguson said he wasn’t entirely satisfied with his side’s overall display at Suncorp Stadium last time out.

But he was full of praise for the character the visitors showed in weathering a second-half onslaught from a fired-up Roar outfit.

“We knew ourselves that we could have put a bit more pressure on Brisbane,” he said.

“But the humidity was something that we’ve not experienced this year and again, great credit to the players in how they showed that steely determination to make it difficult for the opposition.

“I felt we could have held the ball a little better at times and if there was one criticism, that would be it, but the effort they put in and not only that, the desperation they’ve shown to win that game, was really pleasing.

“That’s the best I’ve seen from a Perth Glory side in defending for at least 20 or 25 minutes in the second half.

“I thought for the first half and the first 10 minutes of the second we were really good and then they just put the pressure on us, but we dug deep and hung in there.

“There have been times this season when we’ve done really well in games and come away with no points, so to get three points at Suncorp for the first time since I’ve been at the club was really pleasing.”

Ferguson said he may make changes this week in a bid to counter the rigours of what is a hectic festive schedule.

“We’re considering freshening things up,” he said.

“It’s going to be a very tough period with three games within 10 days or so, so we’re going to have to use our squad and we’ll look to do that this week.”

Suarez hails ´hero´ Gerrard

25 December 2012 21:16

Liverpool forward Luis Suarez has praised Steven Gerrard and says the England midfielder was one of his heroes prior to his move to Anfield.

The controversial former Ajax star, who has already notched 11 goals in the English Premier League this season, had words of praise for Gerrard.

Suarez admits he enjoyed controlling Gerrard on the Playstation before joining the 32-year-old on Merseyside almost two years ago.

“It’s hard to find words to describe what a great player Steven has been – and continues to be – for the club,” Suarez told the club’s website.

“It was only four years ago or so that I was playing on the Playstation and I was always Liverpool and to have him in my team was great. Now I’m playing alongside him – he was a hero.”

Suarez also reiterated his commitment to the Anfield club, who are eighth in the Premier League after Saturday’s 4-0 win over Fulham.

“I’m very, very happy here at the club, I couldn’t be happier. Liverpool is a club I’ve always dreamt of playing at. It’s like a dream for me,” he said.