Sydney FC coach Steve Corica believes his “big-game players” will give the team a key advantage over Melbourne City on Sunday as they gun for back-to-back A-League Grand Final titles.
The Sky Blues have been dominant this year, winning the domestic premiership with four games of the coronavirus-interrupted regular season left, to ensure a spot in the play-offs despite a late form slump.
They regained their mojo to overcome Perth Glory 2-0 in the semi-finals and head into the decider on home turf as hot favourites to become the first team to be crowned champions five times.
Seven of their starting line-up against Perth were involved in last year’s final while Socceroo Ryan McGowan and German playmaker Alex Baumjohann have brought a wealth of European experience in their first campaign.
“It definitely helps. Big-game players, they’ve got the experience,” Corica said.
“They’ve been there before. A lot of them played in the game last year.”
“It definitely plays a part but you just have to back up on Sunday and make sure we obviously get the tactics right and put on another performance like that,” he added.
“Because you’re going to need another one like that to beat a very good Melbourne City team.”
In the A-League’s 15-year history, only one team has successfully defended a championship title — Brisbane Roar in 2012 — and Corica is fully aware of the significance of winning on Sunday.
“There’s only one team in the history of the A-League to go back to back so that would be a very good achievement from the club,” he said.
In contrast to Sydney’s success, Erick Mombaerts’ City are in their first Grand Final, looking to emulate Roar, who also won on their maiden appearance, under former Australia coach Ange Postecoglou in 2011.
The French tactician, who began his coaching career with Paris Saint-Germain, has revolutionised the side since taking over 14 months ago, encouraging free-flowing football and high-intensity attacking.
But he said only a win on Sunday would make their season a success.
“I’m very happy that this situation happened with me,” he said after they beat Western United 2-0 in the semis. “We have done a very good season, it’s a first time to reach a final but now we have one more game to win.
“It’s not enough to reach the final. Now it’s very important to expect to win this.”
They will be heavily relying on striker Jamie Maclaren to keep hitting the target after his 22 goals in the regular season saw him crowned Golden Boot winner.
The A-League kicked off last October and was nearing the end of its regular season when it was suspended in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Rebooting the event proved a logistical nightmare with borders between some Australian states shut, but it finally resumed in July.