Lucas Neill will play his first domestic football match in Sydney in 17 years on Saturday and hopes it will be more enjoyable than his recent outings in Sky Blue.
Lucas Neill will play his first domestic football match in Sydney in 17 years on Saturday - and the Qantas Socceroos captain is hoping it will be more enjoyable than his recent outings in Sky Blue.
Coming off the back of two losses on the road, Neill is set to make his home debut at Allianz Stadium when Sydney FC host the Central Coast Mariners on Saturday evening.
It-s a six-pointer at both end of the table. Sydney need to win to keep their faint finals hopes alive, while the Mariners need three points to keep the pressure on Western Sydney Wanderers, who face a troubled Wellington Phoenix in Parramatta the following day.
Neill is under no illusions of what-s required from the Sky Blues or of the challenge they face getting to grips with Graham Arnold-s battle-hardened Mariners, who have scored 12 goals in their last four games and still hurting from the 1-0 loss to the Wanderers last week.
“It-s very exciting,” Neill said. “It-s been 17 years since I-ve played at home domestically so I-m really looking forward to it. It-s been two tough games away and two negative results, so it-ll be a great time against a very strong team (the Mariners) to come up with three vital points.
“The Mariners are a great side, I know Arnie well he-s put together a great team. I watched them the other day against Melbourne victory and thought they were very impressive. They-re well organised team in good spirits and deserve to be flying the flag for Australia in the Champions League. We-re going to have to earn our points."
The fixture will also be a personal milestone for Neill, his first club game in Sydney since he left Australia more than 15 years ago and a chance to finally impress his new supporters.
“The Cove is famous and made a name for themselves eight years ago when it all started, and this year they-ve been the proverbial 12th man, sticking with us through thick and thin. We-re hoping they-ll be there for us in great numbers again on the weekend and help us rise to the challenge because it is going to be a very difficult game.”
Neill-s performances have also come under scrutiny, with the Socceroo unable to halt the leaks in Sydney-s porous defence. But the Socceroo said his match sharpness was returning with game time and that Frank Farina had the team working on structure in an attempt to save their season.
"I feel really good,” he said, “I'm feeling a lot sharper. Two games in short succession now and I'm feeling almost to (a point) where I'm at my peak.
"This week the focus is on keeping it tight. Hopefully keeping a clean sheet and keeping 11 players on the field.
“Football is never about defence or attack, it's about a team and what we've done is lapsed in concentration. That's led to a soft goal or an easy goal or a situation that could have been avoided.
"Judging by some of the comments (about recent performances), that's the kind of flavour of the season for Sydney FC.
"But that all goes out the window now. With four games left it's just about getting as many points as we can and putting ourselves in the six."