All your Hyundai A-League Finals Series last-minute news and analysis ahead of the do-or-die Hyundai A-League Semi Finals, including a war of words, some interesting penalty-shootout practice and an apparent media snub in Melbourne.
War or words spices Sydney semi
If the action on the field is as hot as it’s been off it in the build-up to the Sydney-Adelaide clash then expect plenty of fireworks at Allianz Stadium tomorrow night.
The barbs have been flying thick and fast across state lines which only adds to what promises to be an engrossing grand final qualifier.
No surprise finals veteran Graham Arnold has been in the thick of it, labelling the Reds as “lucky” to have been so successful against the Sky Blues this season.
Adelaide have been happy to respond with skipper Eugene Galekovic suggesting Sydney are “scared” of the Reds.
Bring it on!!
Nerves getting to Victory?
Both Victorian clubs can be forgiven for appearing to be a hive of nervous activity in the lead-up to what has been described as the biggest game in A-League history – a semi-final Melbourne derby with a place in the Grand Final up for grabs.
The pressure could be getting to some. With television cameras and reporters assembled for Kevin Muscat's final pre-match press conference on Thursday, an overworked member of the club's media team scurried off to find the coach, only for the man himself to enter unannounced from a different direction, calmness personified.
The hungry press pack tried - without success - to goad him into beginning his briefing unsupervised, although he clearly doesn't need a babysitter.
"Don't you worry about me mate, I'll always be here," was the head coach's response when the flustered official returned empty handed to magically discover the boss right where he should be.
Noisy session for Sky Blues
Sydney FC boss Graham Arnold is covering all bases ahead of tomorrow night’s do-or-die semi-final with Adelaide United.
After the side’s training session at Allianz Stadium on Thursday the team practiced their penalties in case the clash has to be decided on spot-kicks.
Nothing out of the ordinary there, right?
But this was a little different as the club organised to have loud crowd noise from The Cove boom out of the PA system to try and replicate the atmosphere during a potential penalty shoot-out.
Talk about leaving no stone unturned.
Sydney FC power together
Still on the Sky Blues and the entire squad, coaching staff and CEO took time out of their familiarisation session at Allianz Stadium yesterday to present the club’s Powerchair team with their brand new jerseys for their new season.
The players swapped stories, took photos and wished each other luck for their big games ahead.
Nice work boys.
Suspension threat won’t hold Paartalu back
Don’t expect Erik Paartalu to take a backward step in tonight’s derby, even with the threat of missing the grand final hanging over his head.
The powerful midfielder is one of only two players at risk of being rubbed out of next week’s decider if they pick up a yellow card this weekend.
City youngster Marc Marino is the other.
A two-time championship winner with Brisbane Roar, Paartalu would love to win a title with his new club but admits he won’t hesitate doing what the team needs – regardless of the possible ramifications.
“If I have to take a yellow card that's the game of football, I suppose," the 29-year-old said this week.
"The good thing about this year is that everyone's done their job for the team. You can't think about those things."
Sydney and Adelaide at full strength
There’s good news for both Sydney and Adelaide with basically a clean bill of health across both squads.
Marc Janko, Seb Ryall and Terry Antonis have all trained strongly this week and are all likely to be in the Sky Blues 16.
For the Reds, Bruce Djite has overcome a groin strain while Jimmy Jeggo should be fine despite training lightly on Thursday with an ankle problem.
Michael Marrone is also back for visitors after suspension and should be involved for his first finals match for the club, having missed last year due to a broken leg.
Adelaide are doing their best to try and treat this as ‘just another game’, declining the chance to train on the Allianz Stadium surface the day before the game and sticking to their normal routine for away matches.
Records set to fall in Melbourne
A crowd of at least 45,000 is expected to flock to Etihad Stadium to see Melbourne’s two bitter rivals play off for a berth in the grand final.
If they can attract more than 47,413 it would break the record for biggest-ever A-League finals crowd, excluding grand finals.
It was that number that also crammed into Etihad back in 2007 to see Victory play Adelaide United for a spot in the decider, with James Robinson’s famous late header handing the home side a win.
Did you know?
Don’t be surprised if a set-piece plays a big role in deciding the winner of tonight’s clash between Victory and City.
John van ‘t Schip’s side has scored the most goals this Hyundai A-League season from set pieces, with Melbourne Victory conceding the most from dead-ball situations.