Sydney FC eyes finals security
It may be second versus last, but Sydney FC is treating tomorrow night's meeting with the New Zealand Knights like a cup final.
The reason: Finals security.
The A-League play-offs reward the team finishing second by giving it two lives and an opportunity to secure a home grand final.
And with only three rounds to go until finals time, Sydney is looking to make that second spot its own.
Sydney (28pts) lost three points for salary cap breaches this week and a win at Aussie Stadium would move it four points clear of Adelaide (3rd, 27pts), who failed to capitalise on a golden opportunity to leapfrog the defending champion with a 1-0 loss to Queensland Roar on Thursday night.
Meanwhile, the Knights will be out to prove they are no longer easybeats on the back of a shock 3-1 win over Queensland to end 2006.
"(Last) is not where you would want to be in the league ... but if we can spoil someone else's party then that would be a nice position to be in," Knights coach Ricki Herbert said.
Sydney playmaker David Carney was aware of the Knights' giant-killing capabilities.
"We can't take them lightly, we saw what they did against Queensland last week, and I'm sure they'll be full of confidence," said Carney, who starred in a 2-0 drubbing of Newcastle Jets last Monday night.
"We've got to treat Sunday's game like a cup final really.
"But if we play like we did last week than I'm sure we'll have no problems."
The 23-year-old Socceroo is in his best form of the season after recovering from shoulder surgery, and believes Sydney, unbeaten in its last nine, is playing well enough to knock minor premier Melbourne Victory over when it matters most ... finals time.
"We know what we've got in the team, we've got quality," he said.
"The good thing is most of us have all played together for two seasons so I think we're really starting to gel now and play good football and this is what we need to carry on into the finals.
"Melbourne beat us twice this season, but I'm sure if we get the chance to play them in the finals, in a situation most of us have experienced before, then we've got the quality players in our side to beat them for sure."
Sydney skipper Mark Rudan is out again through suspension, so the squad is unchanged from the trip to Newcastle.
New Zealand will be without defender Gregory Duruz, striker Adam Casey and `keeper Michael Turnbull.
Richard Johnson, Gao Leilei and Li Yan are also carrying niggling injuries, but are expected to play.
Kick-off is 6pm (AEDT).