A-League preview: Sydney FC v Adelaide United

The stuttering Sky Blues meet the recently crowned FFA Cup winners in an intriguing Boxing Day fixture.

Both lost last week though travel and a Cup hangover may have contributed to the Reds reversal in Newcastle. Arnie's injury-hit outfit will be desperate to get their season back on track after a home loss to Phoenix last weekend. 

MATCH DETAILS
Friday, 26 December 2014
Allianz Stadium, Sydney

Kick-Off:  7.45pm (Local) (7.45pm AEDST)
Referee:  Jarred Gillett

Sydney FC  1.Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 2.Seb RYALL, 4.Pedj BOJIC, 6.Nikola PETKOVIC, 8.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 11.Bernie IBINI, 12 Hagi GLIGOR, 13.Christopher NAUMOFF, 14.Alex BROSQUE (c), 16.Alex GERSBACH, 17.Terry ANTONIS, 18.Peter TRIANTIS, 20.Vedran JANJETOVIC (gk), 21.Mark JANKO, 23. Rhyan GRANT, 25. Aaron CALVER, 28. Max BURGESS. ***two to be omitted***

Ins 28. Max BURGESS (promoted)
Outs  3.Sasa OGNENOVSKI (hip - indefinite)
Unavailable  7.Corey GAMEIRO (knee – indefinite), 22.Ali ABBAS (knee – indefinite), 5. Matt JURMAN (illness – 2 weeks), 19. Nick CARLE (knee – indefinite)

Adelaide United   1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (c) (GK), 2.Michael MARRONE, 3.Nigel BOOGAARD, 4.Dylan McGOWAN, 7.PABLO SÁNCHEZ, 8.ISAÍAS, 9.Sergio CIRIO, 10.Marcelo CARRUSCA, 11.Bruce DJITE, 14.Cameron WATSON, 15.Ben WARLAND, 16.Craig GOODWIN, 17.Awer MABIL, 18.Jimmy JEGGO, 21.Tarek ELRICH, 24.Bruce KAMAU, 30.John HALL (GK), 32.Nathan KONSTANDOPOPOULOS ***two to be omitted***

Ins  15.Ben WARLAND (promoted)
Outs  22.Fabio FERREIRA (hamstring – 2-3 weeks)
Unavailable  5.Osama MALIK (calf – 2 weeks), 20.Paul IZZO (calf – 1 week), 22.Fabio FERREIRA (hamstring – 2-3 weeks), 23.Jordan ELSEY (knee – indefinite)

Broadcast coverage
TV -  Live and exclusive coverage on FOX SPORTS 505 from 7.30pm (AEDT), Live Coverage on SBS HD & SBS One from 7.30pm AEDT and Sky Sport 3 (New Zealand)
Radio -  891 ABC Adelaide, ABC Local Radio  SA, 702 ABC Sydney & ABC Local Radio NSW, Grandstand Digital, Online/ABC Radio Mobile phone app 

BLUFFER’S GUIDE
A month ago these two sides were flying high among the leaders of the A-League. But they have both suffered a little dip in form in recent weeks, losing touch with runaway league-leaders Perth Glory. A horror injury toll hasn’t helped Sydney FC, who have managed just one win from their last seven matches. Adelaide’s Westfield FFA Cup triumph has come sandwiched in between three defeats from four in the league. It should ensure two desperate sides meet in a Boxing Day cracker where both Graham Arnold and Josep Gombau will see an opportunity to get their campaign back on track.

The Sky Blues just can’t take a trick in the injury department of late, with veteran defender Sasa Ognenovski (hip) joining Ali Abbas, Corey Gameiro and Nick Carle (all knee) out for the rest of the season. It’s left Arnold with not too many options to make changes despite their form dip. Skipper Alex Brosque (groin) should come straight back into the starting side after missing last weekend through injury while youngster Aaron Calver or Rhyan Grant may be used at right-back after Pedj Bojic had a tough day out against Wellington. There’s only one change to the Reds squad with youngster Ben Warland coming in for the injured Fabio Ferreira. Bruce Djite should be right to play after missing the loss to Newcastle Jets through injury.

OPTA DATA STATS
-Sydney FC has lost two in a row at home. They last went three in a row without a A-League win at home in February, after which they went on a nine game unbeaten run at the Allianz Stadium.

-Sydney has not beaten Adelaide in any of their last four attempts (D2 L2).

-No team has had more shots (125) or more shots on target (56) than Adelaide this season.

-No player has picked up more yellow cards this season than the Sky Blues’ Sebastian Ryall (5).

ROUTE TO GOAL
Adelaide has relied on the likes of Marcelo Carrusca and Sergio Cirio to create or score many of their goals this season and the pair will again be key in this one. Cirio will relish getting at Sydney fullback Pedj Bojic, who was given a torrid time by Nathan Burns last weekend. The pace and direct style of Adelaide’s wide players including Awer Mabil, Craig Goodwin and Fabio Ferreira is also a threat to the home side. Sydney have lacked the pace to get in behind in recent weeks – with the exception of Bernie Ibini – and could find most of their joy from set pieces – where Adelaide have struggled to defend all season.

WHO’S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?
Terry Antonis. The Sky Blues midfielder was rewarded for a superb start to the season with selection in the Socceroos squad this week for next month’s AFC Asian Cup. He will hope to inspire his side to a victory before heading into camp with the national side. The midfield battle between Antonis and team-mate Milos Dimitrijevic against the Reds contingent of Isaias, Marcelo Carrusca and James Jeggo will be riveting. Antonis will also be praying for no last-minute problems so he can finally hook-up with the Socceroos after being forced to withdraw twice already this year due to injury.

FORM LINES
Sydney were shock 2-0 losers last time out against Wellington Phoenix and have lost their last two matches in front of their home fans at Allianz Stadium. Adelaide were also last-start losers, slumping to a 2-1 defeat to previously winless Newcastle at Hunter Stadium last Friday and have been beaten in three of their last four A-League games. The two sides have already met twice this season – once in the league and once in the Cup – with Adelaide picking up a draw and win from those games, including a 3-1 victory at Allianz Stadium in the Cup.

DID YOU KNOW?
Adelaide has scored in each of their last six visits to Sydney FC, last failing to find the net there in December 2009.

PREDICTION
Sydney FC 1-2 Adelaide United

Adelaide is in marginally better form and should be better prepared for this clash as opposed to last week when they played just three days after their FFA Cup victory. They will believe their current lapse is nothing more than a blip and a solid road win is the best way to prove it. Sky Blues boss Arnold has called for more fight and belief from his injury-hit squad and they won’t want to make it three straight defeats in front of their home fans. They are seriously short on numbers and are desperate for the January transfer window to open to be able to bring in a few reinforcements.