De Jong to play in Grand Final

Sydney FC have insisted marquee Siem de Jong is not in doubt for Sunday's Grand Final, after he was told to stay away from training while he is ill.

The Sky Blues didn't want to take the risk of having the Netherlands international pass his illness to the rest of the squad ahead of the decider against minor premiers Perth Glory.

De Jong called in sick on Thursday and the club's medical staff told him to stay at home but coach Steve Corica told reporters just before the squad flew out to Perth that De Jong would be "fine" for the Optus Stadium clash.

"Siem was missing yesterday, he was a little bit ill but other than that he's good to go," said Corica. "It was a bit precautionary to keep him away from the boys but he's here today and raring to go."

The former Ajax player is set to complete a season-long loan by playing in the Grand Final and the Sky Blues have also been boosted by the availability of defender Michael Zullo.

The left-back was able to return to training on Thursday after hurting his shoulder in the 6-1 semi-final win over Melbourne Victory.

Corica is likely to name the same starting side but wasn't about to divulge his plans at this stage.

"We've still got two days to go so you'll have to wait and see," added the coach. "The boys played exceptionally well against Melbourne, very proud of the performance they put on at home in front of our fans.

"But this is a different game, a different kettle of fish, and we're going to Perth."

Sydney FC are 1/1 to win the Grand Final and 11/5 to win in 90 minutes, with Perth Glory 5/4 and the draw 12/5.

Arnold welcomes Corica success

Australia head coach Graham Arnold says Steve Corica is having the kind of success he anticipated he would with Sydney FC.

Corica replaced Arnold as Sky Blues boss at the end of last season, when Arnold agreed to move to the Socceroos post following the World Cup.

He didn't manage to continue his predecessor's run of dominance in the regular season – Arnold guided the Sky Blues to two consecutive minor premierships – but he has steered them through to the Grand Final.

Arnold's last game in charge of the club proved to be the semi-final defeat to Melbourne Victory last season and Corica helped the club make amends for that loss when they thrashed their Big Blue rivals 6-1 at the same stage last weekend.

Arnold said he had always been a big supporter of Corica, who had previously been his right-hand man.

"When they were talking about who to replace me, I pushed very hard for Stevie at board level because I just felt that in a salary-capped system, and the way the A-League works, that Stevie was the right person for it," he added.

"He'd seen exactly what I'd done and we'd done together. A lot of coaches would come in and try and put their stamp on it, change the system and change this and that – Stevie's been very clever in not changing a thing, pretty much."

The Socceroos coach said he had been sure Corica would make a success of being a head coach, as during his playing career he had always wanted to talk about tactics and understand what the people's roles around him were.

Arnold said it had been a "very good" first season for his successor, adding: "They've got to finish it off as a great season. But coaching is about longevity and next year will be even tougher, and the year after even tougher than that – he knows that."

Sydney FC are 1/1 to win the Grand Final and are 11/5 to win in 90 minutes, with Perth Glory 5/4 to triumph in normal time.

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Corica wants repeat display

Sydney FC coach Steve Corica has called for a repeat performance from his side in Saturday's derby, after praising their 3-3 Asian Champions League draw with Shanghai SIPG.

The Sky Blues are up against it in their bid to qualify for the knockout stage of the ACL, having picked up just two points from their first three games.

Three times they took the lead against the Chinese giants, only to be pegged back each time – finally by Elkeson's 89th-minute effort.

They will go into their return fixture in Shanghai later this month bottom of Group H and knowing a defeat would end their hopes of progressing.

Though they were made to pay for individual errors at Jubilee Oval, the overall display left Corica encouraged.

"I think if we play like that against any A-League team we will destroy them," said the coach. "That's what we want, we have improved, we're getting better, we've got players back now and we have good options off the bench."

The Sky Blues need to beat Western Sydney on Saturday to keep alive their faint hopes of winning the A-League Premier's Plate for a third consecutive season.

Leaders Perth, who host Newcastle on Sunday, enter the round with a six-point buffer.

Sydney are unbeaten in their last five A-League derbies and have lost just one of the last 16 league and FFA Cup games against their cross-town rivals in the last five years.

Defender Michael Zullo is set to miss the derby after picking up a hamstring injury during the second half of the Shanghai match.

The Sky Blues are 4/5 to win the game against Western Sydney, who are 3/1, with the draw 3/1.

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De Jong set to stay on bench

Sydney FC are likely to keep Netherlands international Siem de Jong on the bench for the Big Blue clash with Melbourne Victory on Saturday.

De Jong came off the bench to score a superb goal in last weekend's 3-1 victory against Brisbane Roar, having already set up a goal minutes earlier, in what was his comeback game from a two-month knee injury lay-off.

But head coach Steve Corica is believed to be ready to name an unchanged starting side for the SCG match against a Victory side who are one point below them.

Marquee man de Jong, who is on loan from Ajax, is set to stay on the bench, while veteran Alex Brosque partners Adam le Fondre up front.

Anthony Caceres could start alongside Milos Ninkovic in the attacking midfield roles.

De Jong has scored four goals and claimed two assists in his 12 appearances and is looking forward to his first Big Blue.

"It's a big game and I'm happy to be part of one this weekend," he said. "Always nice these kinds of games for the fans and the players as well.

"The ones I've played in Europe always give a little bit extra to the players with the atmosphere in the stadium and it'll be the same this weekend."

The Sky Blues have lost both their games against Victory this season, and need to put that right to keep alive their chances of overhauling Perth Glory at the top of the table.

The Glory go into the round with a six-point advantage and a goal difference that is better by 11.

The Sky Blues are 1/1 to win their game against the Victory, who are 13/5, with the draw 5/2.

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Corica hails marquee De Jong

Coach Steve Corica praised marquee Siem de Jong after the Netherlands international netted on his return for Sydney FC in the 3-1 win over Brisbane Roar.

A knee injury had kept the former Ajax man on the sidelines for two months before the Suncorp Stadium clash.

He came off the bench with 17 minutes to go when the Sky Blues were level at 1-1, and by the end of the match he had set up one goal and scored another.

First he sent a shot against the post which leading scorer Adam le Fondre followed up to restore the visitors' lead.

And with a minute to go he squeezed a shot inside the near post past Brisbane keeper Jamie Young to complete the victory.

"We see him at training, so we see the best of him," said Corica. "You probably haven't seen the best of Siem yet other than a couple of the fantastic goals he has scored so far, but it's vital for us to keep him fit and everyone else because we haven't really had that option this year.

"He's worked hard to get back fit. He was on a good run before he got injured, scored in his last game and in his first game back he has scored again which is great and it was a vital goal for us, it made the game done and dusted."

De Jong has returned with a month left in the regular A-League season to help the Sky Blues fight for a third consecutive minor premiership.

He will also be involved in their Asian Champions League campaign, which will be a big boost for Corica's team who have picked up just one point from their first two Group H games.

The Dutchman said: "I have trained a lot and I am used to being here more now than I was at the beginning of the season. I am used to at the style of play, I know the guys more and it helps me focus on my own game and helped the team perform better."

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Warland season over after ACL tear

Defender Ben Warland will miss the rest of Sydney FC's season after tearing his ACL.

The 22-year-old was hurt in Sunday's 2-0 home defeat to Melbourne City, scans revealing he tore the ACL in his left knee.

He is the third Sky Blues player to go down with a long-term knee injury this season, putting pressure on their resources as they challenged for a third-straight minor premiership.

Chris Zuvela and Trent Buhagiar both suffered freak knee injuries in accidental clashes during the early part of the campaign.

Warland missed had a delayed start to the start of the season after breaking a bone in his foot in pre-season but returned to become a regular starter in Steve Corica's side.

Speaking of the Adelaide-born centre-back, Corica said: "He's been doing extremely well at centre-half but he is a quality professional, he has great strength and character and I know he will come back even stronger.

"We have a fantastic medical department at Sydney FC, who will guide Ben through the process as they have with others before."

Corica's team are having to contend with dual campaigns, which is seriously testing their depth.

Five of their six games in the Asian Champions League come before the end of the A-League campaign.

Traditionally that has seen Australian clubs struggle to qualify from their ACL groups while chasing domestic silverware.

In the case of Sydney FC it is their league form that held up – they had taken seven points out of nine before losing to City – while they have only picked up one point from their two ACL games so far.

Marquee man Siem de Jong and young playmaker Danny De Silva are both hoping to be back after injuries for their next game against second-bottom Brisbane on 29th March.

The Sky Blues are 1/2 to win their next game against Brisbane Roar, who are 5/1 with the draw 3/1.

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ACL setback for Sky Blues in Japan

Sydney FC are bottom of their Asian Champions League group after going down to a 1-0 defeat away to Kawasaki Frontale.

The J.League hosts didn't score until seven minutes from time but dominated the Sky Blues, having 20 shots to their opponents' two.

Sydney FC's hopes of qualifying from Group H took a big hit against the team that had lost their opening match.

They went into the game at the Todoroki Athletics Stadium without midfielder Josh Brillante, who looks set to leave the club and move to South Korean outfit Pohang Steelers.

Coach Steve Corica left the 25-year-old out of the side as he said he "wasn't in the right frame of mind" to play due to the transfer interest in him.

The Sky Blues had an early chance when skipper Alex Brosque saw his header saved by keeper Jung Sung-ryong.

Leandro Damiao fired wide soon after for Kawasaki, before bringing a fingertip save from Andrew Redmayne midway through the half.

Kawasaki kept the keeper busy after the break and he had to make two superb stops to keep the scores blank.

First a looped volley from Hidemasa Morita from outside the area brought a full-stretch save from Redmayne, then 15 minutes from time he kept out a point-blank effort from Ao Tanaka.

Finally Kawasaki broke the deadlock when Manabu Saito swept home a deflected cross.

It leaves Corica's side bottom with just one point from their opening two fixtures in the tournament.

The coach said: "I thought we defended quite well. Kawasaki had quite a few chances but shots from distance, which our goalkeeper made quite good saves at times.

"We had a very good chance early on in the game, which maybe if we scored this goal the game would have been different … then we are in front and we can defend a lead.

"I'm pleased, our boys worked very hard. Disappointed not to get at least one point, but I thought Kawasaki were good. They're a good team, we knew this, they played good football."

Sydney FC are 5/2 to win the Grand Final.

The Sky Blues are 19/20 to win their next game against Melbourne City, who are 3/1 with the draw 5/2.

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Striker revels in Sky Blues freedom

Striker Reza Ghoochannejhad is relishing the freedom he has under Sydney FC coach Steve Corica, as he anticipates his first Asian Champions League game for the club.

The Sky Blues, who have won the A-League's minor premiership for the past two seasons, take on Ulsan Hyundai in their opening group game at Jubilee Oval on Wednesday.

For the former Iran international forward it will be a meeting with his former teammate from last season, Dave Bulthuis – the pair played together for Dutch club Heerenveen.

He will go into the match full of confidence, after notching his first goal for Corica's side last weekend when they beat Adelaide United 2-0.

And he says he's loving the licence to express himself that the coach has given him since he arrived on loan from Cypriot side APOEL during the transfer window.

"The coach has given me plenty of freedom on the pitch, especially ball position; I can drop, so that's good to create something to be unorthodox," added Ghoochannejhad. "It's nice to be able to be free, move into spaces where you think there is opportunity – the coach has given me this freedom and I am happy with that."

Speaking of his first goal against United, he said: "I knew the goal was going to come. I wasn't worried about that because we were creating opportunities and we were playing well and I knew the moment was going to come soon.

"Every game is different but I didn't feel pressured at all. From the moment I came here, the coach gave me confidence, my teammates gave me confidence."

Sydney FC are 19/10 to win their next game against Ulsan Hyundai, who are 29/20 with the draw 11/5.

The Sky Blues are 5/2 to win the A-League Grand Final.

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Sky Blues held by Mariners

Bottom side Central Coast held minor premiership contenders Sydney FC to a 1-1 draw in front of their own fans at Leichhardt Oval.

The Mariners took the lead against the run of play nine minutes before half-time when Adam le Fondre returned to the top of the A-League Golden Boot standings by netting the equaliser.

The Sky Blues will regard the game as two points dropped, despite having trailed. They are now 10 points behind leaders Perth Glory with eight games left.

Central Coast ended their four-match losing streak while Steve Corica's team have won just one of their past four fixtures.

Le Fondre now leads the goalscoring chart on his own again – with 13 for the season – one more than Perth's Andy Keogh and Roy Krishna of Wellington Pheonix.

He converted from the spot 14 minutes from time after Jem Karacan had been bundled over by substitute Alex Brosque in the box.

The home side couldn't go on and secure victory, with Brosque and Milos Ninkovic unable to take chances in the final three minutes.

They had started the game well and were unlucky not to take a 20th-minute lead through Ninkovic.

The midfielder fired a powerful shot against the post with Mariners keeper Ben Kennedy beaten and then, when he latched onto the rebound, his second effort was just wide.

Josh Brillante's volley was saved by Kennedy on the half-hour mark and the Sky Blues looked the more likely side to score only to fall behind when Aiden O'Neill fired in a shot that found the bottom corner past unsighted keeper Andrew Redmayne.

Corica said after he match: "We had about 14 or 15 shots, some one-on-ones, and hit the post so had plenty of good chances. It was not for the lack of trying and I can't take anything away from the boys' effort."

Sydney FC are 3/1 to win the Grand Final and 1/1 to win their next game against Wellington, who are 5/2 with the draw 13/5.

Austin excited by Sky Blues move

Winger Mitch Austin has joined Sydney FC on the final day of the transfer window and could make his debut straight away.

The 27-year-old moves from Newcastle Jets, who he joined at the start of the season, with the Sky Blues being his fifth A-League club since he returned to Australia in 2015 after playing in England.

He's spent time with Central Coast and Melbourne Victory, but his latest move has more personal significance as he supported Sydney FC as a youngster.

Austin is the third signing of the transfer window by Steve Corica's side, following Anthony Caceres and Reza Ghoochannejhad.

At the same time as securing Austin on a deal through to the end of the season, the Sky Blues released forward Charles Lokolingoy.

Austin, who is eligible for the game against Melbourne City on Sunday, said the move felt like him coming home.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for me to be joining the current Premiers and my intention is to win trophies with the club," he added.

"To get the chance to compete for a place in the AFC Champions League squad is hugely exciting for me; as is playing for the club I supported as a boy."

Corica said of him: "Mitch has got a lot of pace and can play anywhere across our frontline so will give us an extra option up front. He will worry defenders and add to the quality we already have in our forward line, I think it will strengthen our squad."

The Sky Blues are 1/1 to win their next game against Melbourne City, who are 14/5, with the draw 5/2.

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