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Jan, 18, 2008

Numbers crunched as Sydney chase title

On a weekend for the number crunchers in the A-League there is one figure that makes sombre reading for Sydney FC in their bid for the minor premiership.

By kick-off in Sunday's must-win clash against Melbourne, it will have been 778 days since the sky blues last beat the Victory.

December 3, 2005 was in fact the only time in eight games Sydney have walked off victorious against Melbourne.

That was way back in season one.

Since then they have lost three and drawn two against the reigning champions, and have failed to score in their last three meetings - in terms of days that's 456 since Steve Corica celebrated Sydney's last goal against the Victory.

With four teams - Sydney, Queensland, Central Coast and Newcastle - all in pursuit of the minor premiership, it's hardly a set of numbers to give confidence to John Kosmina's men.

But then such streaks must come to an end sometime.

And while Newcastle's victory over Perth on Friday night might have made Sydney's job a little harder in terms of securing a top two berth, it at least proved hoodoos are meant to be broken.

The 2-1 win ended a run of 784 days since the Jets last beat the Glory.

A similar result for Sydney on Sunday will likely secure a top two berth and, depending on Queensland Roar's performance against Adelaide in the final game of the regular season, perhaps even the minor premiership.

The in-form Victory, for their part, are keen to keep the run going as they prepare for their Asian Champions League debut in March.

"As far as we're concerned we've got an extension to our season and there's still a chance for ourselves to finish off this campaign with a little bit of style," said Victory skipper Kevin Muscat, whose side bowed out of the finals race last week despite winning their last three games.

"We would rather be in another position, we would rather be having the game with something to play for. (But) I don't think you need much motivation apart from going to Sydney and taking three points off them in their own backyard.

"They've got so much to play for and if we can be the team that spoils their party for them then so be it."

Sydney have not lost since storming into the top four for the first time this season a month ago, but return to the venue which has proven their kryptonite in 2007-08.

While unbeaten away from home, Sydney have lost five of their 10 games at Sydney Football Stadium - including a last-up 4-2 defeat against strugglers Perth, the club's only loss since Kosmina took charge mid-season.

They'll face a Victory side, though, without their No.1 goalkeeper, with coach Ernie Merrick electing to rest Michael Theoklitos and blood 19-year-old Mitchell Langerak ahead of the ACL.

Kosmina has brought Brazilian World Cup winner Juninho and Socceroos defender Mark Milligan back into the starting side with both fully recovered from niggling injuries.

"I feel no pressure just because it is a big game. The big games are the ones I like to play (in). I am looking forward to playing," Juninho said.

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