Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold has predicted another goal-fest against Melbourne Victory on Australia Day, and says the Big Blue is the ‘biggest and best’ fixture in the Hyundai A-League.
Last season’s grand finalists face-off at Etihad Stadium tomorrow (Tues) in an Australia Day blockbuster to complete what’s already been a thrilling Round 16.
The Sky Blues have the chance to go top of the ladder with a win, while Victory would draw level on points with Sydney if they get the result.
The last three regular-season games between the two clubs have seen 18 goals and Arnold expects more of the same between these two fierce rivals.
“We both go at each other. There’s no bigger and better competitive game than the Big Blue, Sydney against Melbourne Victory,” the Sky Blues boss told reporters on Monday.
“Last year we had two 3-3 draws against them, both great games. The 0-0 draw was a fantastic 0-0 and could have been anything and this year the first game was 4-2.
“I felt that evening we were as good if not better than them…they scored two goals late. Before that we hit the crossbar and the post and we dominated big periods of the game.
“We have to go down there with the same mentality and attitude.
"We have a great belief in this squad that we’re going in the right direction and we have the quality players to do damage to Melbourne Victory and we have to go down there and prove it.”
But if recent history is anything to go by, the Sky Blues will find it hard to topple the champions.
Sydney is without a win in their last seven games against Victory, while Arnold has never managed a win coaching head-to-head against Kevin Muscat.
Asked if Victory was his side’s bogey team, Arnold said: “I don’t think so. Every game is different.
“We go to Etihad [Stadium] tomorrow, most of the time we have played them at AAMI [Park].
“Etihad’s a bigger stadium, less intimidating. Obviously Melbourne Victory are a very good side but we’re very confident in our own ability as well.
“You saw last week the pride that team has especially within the playing group…they destroyed Brisbane.
"They’ll probably take that momentum into the game,” Arnold added about Victory.
“We’ve got to make sure we go down there with the same mentality we had in the derby last week and do as good a job as last week.”
Arnold said skipper Alex Brosque wouldn’t travel with the squad, still “a week or two away” with his hamstring injury.
And defender Alex Gersbach is 50-50 after only returning from Olyroos duty on Monday morning.
He was also undecided on who would start in attack, with derby hero Shane Smeltz pushing for a start having scored four times against Victory last season.