Melbourne City star Tim Cahill has started the mind games ahead of Harvey Norman Friday Night Football, suggesting Sydney FC will sit back at AAMI Park and put numbers behind the ball against City.
In a blockbuster start to Round 21, City hosts the Sky Blues fresh off their first defeat of the season in the Sydney Derby in a replay of November’s Westfield FFA Cup final.
City is the only other side to beat Sydney FC this season and Cahill can sense some vulnerability in the ranks of Graham Arnold’s troops.
The Caltex Socceroo believes the clash will be “like another FFA Cup final” and feels City is starting to click at just the right time.
“They’re [Sydney FC] coming to our place. There’s a lot on it and we’re excited by it,” Cahill told the Herald Sun on Thursday.
“We’re working hard to bring some real steel to the team. There’s a fresh buzz about our team and we’re starting to click. When you play Sydney FC, you know they’re going to come here and defend.
“It’d be very unlikely for them to come out and attack.
“They know we’ve got a lot going forward. They’ve based themselves on a manager [Graham Arnold] that makes sure they’re well drilled.
“The way they play, all the midfield fuses back in. They wait and pray and there’s 11 behind the ball, 24/7.”
Cahill is expected to come into City’s XI in what would be his first Hyundai A-League start in a month.
And the Sky Blues know all about his threat with the 37-year-old heading in the winner in City’s 1-0 Westfield FFA Cup triumph over Sydney FC.
The Sky Blues bounced back quickly after that defeat and coach Graham Arnold expects something similar after their perfect A-League season was ended by the Wanderers last weekend.
Arnold dismissed suggestions his side’s first defeat could spark a form slump, insisting they have moved on and are focused on finishing the season strong.
“We’ve had a fantastic journey,” the Sky Blues boss told reporters on Wednesday.
“It wasn’t one of our goals at the start of the season to go unbeaten - the first goal was the minor premiership, which then as history shows gives you a very good chance to win the championship.
"Then it was to win the FFA Cup, and we got to the final.
“So we’re in a great position, and we will get better and better. Our performance the other night was outstanding - the only thing missing was our finishing, so now it’s about looking forward.
“You’d never know we lost a game. It’s no crime to lose, we felt we were the better team and deserved the points. Therefore we move forward.”