Ryall: Alessandro is our key

It's not often you hear a player admit they're just an appendage to a one-man team, but then it's also not often you play alongside a FIFA World Cup and UEFA Champions League winner, and chances to do so are running out.

As Alessandro Del Piero prepares to lace up the boots for what could the last game of his professional career, there was little point in Sebastian Ryall understating the Italian's importance to Sydney FC.

With Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat promising to attack the Sky Blues in the first A-League elimination final at Etihad Stadium on Friday, Ryall and his colleagues will look to their 39-year-old skipper to help them weather the storm.

"Obviously our key is Alessandro," he said.

"And it helps us when teams do come at us. We know what to expect from them. We're expecting a tough match and we know how good they can be on the day, so we'll be ready."

Former Juventus and Italy star Del Piero not only captains Sydney but leads the team for goals, shots on and off target, assists, dribbles attempted and fouls won. Among the six teams set to contest the 2013-14 finals, there surely can't be another team more dependent on one player.

Be it this weekend or later in the finals campaign, when the end does come for the man affectionately known as 'Ale', it will prompt a major shift in the way the Sky Blues play, necessitate some shrewd recruitment and see a successor installed as skipper.

When asked if he is worried about what life will be like without Del Piero next year, Ryall said: "I'm not even thinking about that right now to be honest.

"We've got a big match tomorrow and we have to win the match, so that's our focus for now."

That may be true for the players. But after finding themselves on the end of some vitriolic fan protest earlier this season, as well as being grilled by members at an event intended to outline their plans for the future, you can bet the likes of chief executive Tony Pignata, chairman Scott Barlow and coach Frank Farina are all thinking very hard about life without Del Piero, with a series of decisions they can't afford to get wrong approaching just around the corner.