They are in fifth spot on the Hyundai A-League ladder and six points off the top but Graham Arnold believes rival sides fear Sydney FC and insists they’re still in the hunt for the Premiership.
The Sky Blues head into Saturday night’s blockbuster Sydney derby against the Wanderers as the hottest side in the competition, peaking at just the right time for a title tilt.
“I always try to strive for the best and highest possible position we can get,” Arnold told reporters on Thursday.
“We’re in great form, we’re scoring a lot of goals and no doubt a lot of other teams will be fearing our attack.
“We’ve got to tighten up our defence…but there’s a lot of twists and turns to go between now and the end of the league.
“There’s another nine games and we’ll strive to finish as high as we can possibly get.”
While the Wanderers are struggling in the Hyundai A-League, sitting last with just one win for the season, Arnold is expecting a torrid battle at Pirtek Stadium.
Tony Popovic’s side will be buoyed from a great result in the ACL on Wednesday night and would love nothing more than to halt Sydney FC’s finals charge.
The last derby in November was a spiteful affair, with Sydney basically accusing Wanderers midfielder Iacopo La Rocca of intentionally trying to hurt Ali Abbas.
It led to a war of words between the coaches and is sure to add further spice to Saturday’s clash, but Arnold is confident his players will keep their emotions in check.
“The derby is for the fans. It’s to give bragging rights and we have to make sure we remove all the emotion and focus on the game plan,” Arnold said.
“We have to focus on how to win the game and go out there with the greatest respect for them because they are Asian champions at the moment and whatever their position on the table is doesn’t matter to us.
“I’m not someone who worries too much about the opposition. We can only do what we can control and if we do that I’ve got confidence in the quality we’ve got we’ll win the game.”
After conceding five goals in the last two weeks, Arnold says Sydney’s focus this week has been all about defence and ensuring they plug the holes at the back.
Defender Sebastian Ryall trained strongly on Thursday and could return at right-back, with Rhyan Grant and youngster Aaron Calver also pushing for selection there.
“Last week the Mariners surprised us a little bit…their wide boys didn’t really track back and defend and they hurt us on the break,” Arnold explained.
“We have to be smart enough. The A-League has become a transitional league…teams defend with six and attack with four.
“You have to make sure you have at least four guys behind the ball when you go forward otherwise you get punished.”
Asked if the crowd will be a factor, Arnold couldn’t resist a little dig at his rivals' home base.
“It won’t be a factor at all,” he said.
“It’s a beautiful little stadium and we’re looking forward to getting out there.”