Sydney FC go into the new A-League season looking stronger than at any stage since their last title win in 2010. New coach Graham Arnold has been able to stamp his mark on the squad with many players having come to the end of their contracts at the end of last season.
As well as the appointment of Arnold as coach, the Sky Blues also have a new captain following the departures of Alessandro Del Piero and Terry McFlynn. The returning Alex Brosque will be a popular choice among fans having been a key player in their last championship winning side.
Despite the absence of Del Piero memberships are at record levels going into an opening round. This demonstrates that fans are enthused by the prospect of a good team winning games rather than the draw of an international superstar.
The attacking options at Arnold’s disposal this year are impressive. Brosque, Bernie Ibini and Shane Smeltz are all proven at A-League level, while Marc Janko is currently the captain of the Austrian national side. Arnold will have to do without the services of Ibini and Janko in the opening games as they are on international duty.
The Sky Blues have been in strong form throughout pre-season, with just a solitary defeat at the hands of EPL side Newcastle United. Their preparations have also been boosted by two FFA Cup wins.
Christopher Naumoff announced himself as one to watch this year with two spectacular goals in the tie against Sydney United. The quality attackers currently ahead of him in the pecking order will be hard to dislodge, but Naumoff has shown that all players need to be on their toes if they want to retain their place.
Sydney FC open the season with an intriguing clash against the newly rebranded Melbourne City. The club formerly known as Melbourne Heart are now affiliated with English Premier League champions Manchester City, and have used their financial muscle to bring Spanish World Cup winner David Villa to Australia for a guest stint.
Despite only arriving in Australia a week ago Villa looks fully fit and ready to start for City at Allianz Stadium. With only a handful of training sessions under his belt it will be understandable if combinations with his new teammates are yet to be fully functioning. However, when presented with a sight of goal he has proved over the years that he can be as clinical as anyone in the game.
Saturday 11th October, Allianz Stadium Moore Park 19:30
Sydney FC v Melbourne City
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