Graham Arnold has revealed Socceroo midfielder Terry Antonis will make a timely return for Saturday’s semi-final against Adelaide United and believes his big-game players gives Sydney FC the edge.
Antonis has been out of action for almost two months since returning from Australia’s AFC Asian Cup success with a knee injury.
But the 21-year-old has been training strongly over the last few days and if he gets through the week will be involved against the Sky Blues' bogey side at Allianz Stadium.
“Terry’s back,” Arnold beamed on Monday.
“He trained fully in [an in-house] game on Saturday, he’ll be training all week so he’ll be involved on Saturday for sure.”
While nowhere near match-fit, skipper Alex Brosque believes the classy playmaker can be an x-factor off the bench for the side over the next fortnight.
“He’s looking good again and he’ll be a player that can definitely help in the latter stages of the game,” Brosque said.
“He obviously won’t be 90 minutes match fit but whatever impact he does, he’s shown already this year he can be a handful.
“Everyone will be fit, everyone will be ready, the excitement is there. We’re really looking forward to this game.”
Marquee man Marc Janko, who missed the final match of the regular season with a shoulder injury, has also been confirmed as a certain starter.
Despite their poor record against Adelaide, Arnold is confident his side won’t be ambushed again in front of what should be of a big home crowd.
The Sky Blues boss said the 1-0 defeat to the Reds last month helped recalibrate their focus for the run to the title.
“I have to thank Adelaide because it showed us we had to go back to the drawing board. We weren’t ruthless enough in front of goal, we had to get back to our defensive basics and putting high pressure on,” Arnold said.
“Since that loss we’ve gone through undefeated. We took a lesson out of that night.
“Also psychologically, when six or seven players come to you after the game and say ‘we had a balaclava on tonight and we robbed you’, players aren’t silly, they know who won.”
Arnold said the wealth of experience in his side fills him with a lot of confidence they will get the job done this time.
“I have a lot of trust and faith in this playing group. We see how relaxed they are at training and around the place and we have a lot of players with a lot of big game experiences,” he said.
“Janko is still in the Austrian national team, Shane Smeltz has played at a world cup, we’ve got some championship winners in there in Bernie Ibini, Matt Jurman and Seb Ryall.
“And we’ve got some big foreign players who have played in some huge games overseas. They know what big games are about.”