Newcastle Jets star playmaker Nicky Carle believes he faces a bigger challenge than most heading into the A-League finals after becoming a marked man.
The midfielder, a key to the in-form Jets' title hopes, was kept quiet last week after attracting the attention of opposition defenders following his scorching mid-season form.
"Teams have made it quite difficult for me in this last round (of fixtures)," Carle said.
"But I'm happy with the fact the team is doing well and I'm still happy with my form."
Carle, 25, said he was looking to use the increased attention to his advantage.
"I'm doing my best to help the team because I am getting marked tightly, but I can make runs to make space for my teammates and as long as we're winning that's the important thing," he said.
"I enjoy the challenge and I enjoy the fact I have been marked and it just gives me that extra incentive to do well."
Carle, who finished the regular season with six assists and four goals including an unforgettable winner against Adelaide in October, said he was delighted just to be a part of the finals.
Few would have predicted the Jets, winless after their first seven games of the season, to qualify but the appointment of coach Gary van Egmond and Carles' contribution has turned their season around.
"It's absolutely brilliant, everyone wrote us off, I don't think anyone could believe we'd make the finals from where we were," he said.
"It's been such a turnaround and it's that little bit better because we've done it the tough way and we've shown that we are a good side. Things just didn't go for us at the start."
The Jets now face a do-or-die, two-leg clash against defending premiers Sydney, with the victor getting a shot at a grand final spot in a one-off preliminary final.
And while excited about the prospect of playing in front of a big Aussie Stadium crowd on Friday, Carle believes next week's home leg against Sydney could prove the key to the Jets' progression.
"They absolutely love it up there, they've really got behind us and it really helps when you play at home," he said of the EnergyAustralia Stadium crowd, which hit almost 20,000 for the Jets' 4-0 slaying of minor premiers Melbourne on Friday.
"The chant starts and it doesn't stop all game, it feels like you're playing in a small stadium in Europe."