Hyundai A-League preview: Adelaide v Sydney FC
An intriguing Boxing Day clash sees the desperate Reds face the Sky Blue juggernaut when last hosts top as the Hyundai A-League's Summer of Football continues.
On paper, Sydney FC should make light work of Adelaide.
The Sky Blues remain unbeaten through 11 rounds and blasted in another four goals when disposing of Perth Glory last time out.
11 games down, 16 to go in their quest to be the Hyundai A-League’s ‘Invincibles’.
With coach Graham Arnold re-signing for another two years this week as well, they undoubtedly make the trip to the City of Churches on Christmas Day with plenty of confidence.
Josh Brillante and Matt Simon are available again after serving one-game bans so the Sky Blues will be at full-strength at Coopers.
While there isn’t much for Adelaide fans to be excited about right now, they are one of just three sides to have avoided defeat to Sydney in the Hyundai A-League this season, grinding out a 0-0 draw at Allianz last month.
But it’s been a rare bright spot in what is becoming a nightmare title defence for the Reds.
They’ve been unable to build on that breakthrough win over Wellington in Round 9, losing to Brisbane (4-0) and Newcastle (2-1) since.
With an AFC Champions League campaign starting up in February as well, it’s going to make it extra difficult to mount a challenge for the Finals Series.
Gui Amor’s side must start winning games and must start now. The visit of Sydney FC always draws a big crowd and Coopers will be rocking if they could bag the three points.
ROUTE TO GOAL
The Reds have managed just 10 goals for the campaign, the least of any side in the league.
It’s easy to point the finger at striker Sergi Guardiola but the Spaniard isn’t the main reason for Adelaide’s woes in front of goal.
Injuries to key attackers Carrusca, Cirio and Henrique have meant a huge chunk of their creative flair has been missing for much of the campaign.
And while that trio is now fit and back, it will take time for those combinations to click into gear.
At least the Reds can draw on the fact they came up with a system which blunted Sydney’s attack in their previous meeting this season.
The Sky Blues’ normally potent front-four struggled to find their rhythm and had little time or space on the ball to create openings.
How well Arnie’s men can deal with that similar pressure will surely determine who comes out on top.
Simon is back from suspension to bolster Sydney’s options off the bench, while Bernie Ibini could be the visitor’s X-factor off the bench.
Ibini has scored twice in his last three cameos as a substitute and is always a handful for a tiring defence.
WHO’S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK
Filip Holosko. The Sky Blues marquee man broke his two-month goal-scoring drought with a crucial goal against Perth glory last weekend. He’s scored in his last two visits to Coopers as well. And he's more than happy to fly on Christmas Day!