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Del Piero lifts opponents as well: Arnold

Central Coast coach Graham Arnold believes Alessandro Del Piero is not only lifting Sydney FC's playing standard but also having the same effect on their A-League opponents.

The Mariners face Sydney at Bluetongue Stadium on Saturday and Arnold hopes Del Piero is fit to play, expecting his presence to help bring the best out of his team.

The Italian World Cup winner revealed after last weekend's 2-1 win over Perth that he had been battling tightness in his hamstrings and was close to withdrawing from the game.

After missing training on Tuesday, Del Piero was to train with the squad on Thursday and coach Ian Crook expected him to be fit for the weekend's clash.

"I hope he plays. We want to play against him," Arnold said on Wednesday.

"I expect our boys to rise even more because one thing about Del Piero is I think he's raised the level of Sydney FC but also every team he plays against he raises the level of their performance as well and that's what I expect from our boys on Saturday.

"I want our boys to go out there and show Del Piero and the public what they can do."

Del Piero has proved a game-changer for the Sky Blues, not only creating several chances so far this season but also scoring in all three games since Sydney's season-opening loss to Wellington.

But Arnold was adamant he wouldn't alter the Mariners' structure in a bid to defuse the threat posed by the 37-year-old former Juventus playmaker.

"It's more than just about Del Piero it's about the Central Coast Mariners and it's about the way we play," Arnold said.

"It's great that we'll have such a world football star like Del Piero come up here to the Central Coast and I appeal to all the Central Coast supporters to get there... but we'll play our normal game.

"He's a fantastic player and we'll keep a close eye on him but there won't be one player that will have a role of man-marking him at all."

Arnold has been vocal about not wanting a marquee signing at the Mariners, maintaining the club is about the team and not the individual.

But while agreeing Del Piero and former England striker Emile Heskey have been great additions to the league and have created interest in the sport, Arnold said his own import - Dutch defender Patrick Zwaanswijk - had been just as valuable.

"There's a lot of talk about Del Piero and Heskey and that's fantastic," he said.

"I think there's only one other person who could have done what Del Piero's doing in Australia and that's David Beckham and he does that in America.

"But we've got our own 37-year-old in Patrick who in my view has been the best and most consistent foreigner who's come to the A-League.

"He's been great since he came here three years ago and I expect him to be the same on the weekend."


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