Sydney FC versus the rest?
A straw poll of leading Hyundai A-League coaches and players suggests Sydney FC is the team to beat in 2008/9.
Sydney FC will play in the 2008/9 Hyundai A-League grand final but it's take your pick as to their opponent.
That was the general consensus to emerge from a straw poll of the competition's leading coaches and players after the season was officially launched in Sydney on Monday.
Asked who they thought their team would meet in the grand final, David Mitchell (Perth Glory), Ricki Herbert (Wellington Phoenix), Lawrie McKinna (Central Coast) and Craig Moore (Queensland Roar) all tipped the sky blues.
Sydney coach John Kosmina expects Queensland to build on last year's finals finish and make the decider in the A-League's fourth season, while John Aloisi (Sydney) and Ernie Merrick (Melbourne) steered clear of naming one stand-out club.
"You would have to say Sydney straight off the bat." Mitchell told Sportal when asked his title favourite.
"They've recruited well. They're good players and you think right away they've got a good squad."
Roar skipper Moore also tips Sydney to show the way.
"They've got good domestic players who know what the A-League's all about whereas a lot of us other clubs have taken players from overseas," he pointed out.
"If they struggle and take time for a transitional period the season's over, but Sydney are not going to be in that position."
"They've got boys that know exactly what is expected."
Herbert also likes of the look of Kosmina's men, declaring: "I think when you look at personnel recruitment Sydney have done amazingly well because you know the players."
"Unfortunately I don't know some of the players that are coming to the other clubs and I guess time will tell but certainly Sydney, for me, stand out."
Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna, who has steered his side to two grand finals in three years, also expects his bitter rivals from the south to set the benchmark.
"Sydney's got a lot of quality and if they can keep them all on the park they will be hard to beat," he said.
Victory boss Ernie Merrick refused to have a stab at a likely front-runner, preferring to wait until later in the season before forming an opinion.
"All I've said right from the outset is that you can't assess a team unless you've played against them," he said.
The brash Kosmina wasn't afraid to take a punt, predicting Frank Farina's exciting Roar team to give the competition a real shake.
"Queensland could be the darkhorse. I think they are a good side," Kossie said.
"They were good last year. They were the one team in the finals we didn't want to get."
"They play such a great running game, they're mobile and they're quick."
"And now they've got Sergio van Dijk, who will be an asset to them."
A diplomatic Aloisi said: "Every side has recruited very well, from Wellington to Perth. Queensland are also going to be very strong."
"That's the beauty of our league at the moment, you can't pick a winner, you can't say 'oh this team's going to run away with it'."
"I think it's pretty even and it's going to probably be the best season that we've had so far in the A-League."
"Let's just hope that we're up the top at the end."