Reinforced and refreshed, Graham Arnold says Sydney FC have come through their mini-form slump and expects the side to push hard for the Hyundai A-League title for the rest of the season.
Before the Asian Cup break the Sky Blues went seven games without a win as season-ending injuries to Corey Gameiro, Ali Abbas, Sasa Ognenovski and Nick Carle hit the squad hard.
The three-week hiatus allowed Arnold bring in re-enforcements Jacques Faty and Mickael Tavares from Senegal, as well as Australian youth international Robert Stambolziev.
Faty and Tavares made an immediate impact, helping Sydney crush Central Coast Mariners 5-1 on the Hyundai A-League’s resumption.
"The performance against the Mariners was very good, especially attacking performance but defensively we still have to tighten up a little bit," Arnold told reporters on Thursday.
"It was good to get Jacques Faty and Tavares into the team and both of them were exceptional in that game.
“We get Terry Antonis back from the Asian Cup now so I have a bit selection dilemma, who to start on Saturday night (against Perth Glory).
"The break for the Asian Cup came at a good time for us to freshen the players up. The players had tough time in November and December with the injuries we copped and the players saw their team-mates get some bad injuries.
“I was able to spend a lot of time on recruitment to strengthen the squad and we were able to do that. It was like a mini pre-season, a good time for us and I’m expecting a strong second half of the season."
They will get a good test of that theory against the league-leaders Perth at nib Stadium on Saturday night.
Glory came to Sydney earlier this season and came-from-behind to beat the Sky Blues 2-1 at Allianz Stadium, which started their long winless run.
“It’s a big game and a very tough challenge when you go across to Perth any time,” Arnold said.
“They are in good form, top of the league and Kenny Lowe is doing a good job over there and has them playing very well.
“We know it’s going to be a big challenge but the boys are looking forward to it.”
While Arnold worked feverishly during the Asian Cup break on trying to resurrect the Sky Blues season, he also watched on with pride as the Socceroos went all the way.
“I had no doubts we’d win the Asian Cup and I thought we did it in good style as well,” he said.
“It was great to see that the young kids Ange (Postecoglou) brought in over last 18 months…Ange copped some criticism for the changes he made but overall he did a fantastic job for Australia and it’s a fantastic thing for the game here.”
Youngster Stambolziev, who has had stints in England, Greece and Cyprus over the last seven years before joining Sydney FC, is likely to be a part of the squad and could make his debut over in the west.
Sydney FC tackle Perth Glory at nib Stadium on Saturday night. Click here for tickets
Broadcast: LIVE on Fox Sports 505 and ABC Grandstand
Players, coaches and referees can register to “Play Football” by logging onto Australia's biggest online sports registration portal, which can be found at http://www.myfootballclub.com.au/
Get down to the following Centres this weekend to meet your Hyundai A-League heroes and get involved in some fun football activities.
* Adelaide United - Westfield Tea Tree Plaza – Thursday 5th February 5-7pm
* Central Coast Mariners - Westfield Tuggerah – Thursday 5th February 5-7pm (Click here for more details)
* Newcastle Jets - Westfield Kotara – Saturday 7th February 12.30–2.30pm
* Melbourne City - Westfield Plenty Valley – Sunday 8th February 11am-2pm
* Perth Glory - Westfield Whitford City – Sunday 8th February 11am-2pm
Check back regularly as more clubs announce their appearances.
Check westfield.com.au for more detailed information.