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Sydney On Course For Back-To-Back A-League Crowns

football-3471402_640Sydney FC appear to be on course to win their second A-League crown on the bounce, boasting a comfortable lead at the top of the table heading into the closing stages of the season. The club dominated the division in the 2016/17 season, losing just one of their 27 matches. Graham Arnold’s men used their home-field advantage to great effect to ease past Perth Glory in the semi-finals.

However, they were forced to battle back from behind in the Grand Final against the Melbourne Victory. Besart Berisha put the Victory ahead, only for Rhyan Grant to pull his team back level. The match was decided by penalties, with Sydney’s Alex Wilkinson missing early from the spot. The shootout turned when Carl Valeri struck the bar, while Danny Vukovic made the crucial save to allow Milos Ninkovic to fire home from 12 yards to secure the crown. The club have been on form once again in the current campaign in their bid to secure successive titles. We’ll now take a look at their season and the potential threats to the crown.

The Season So Far

Vukovic left the club after his heroics in the Grand Final to join Genk in a £1m deal. Andrew Redmayne has taken his place between the sticks, while Filip Holosko also departed the team that triumphed. However, Sydney managed to rebuild, including the signing of Adrian Mierzejewski.

Arnold’s men faced off against the Victory in their opener, with an own goal from Thomas Deng handing them the perfect start of the campaign. A brace from Bobo and a strike from Michael Zullo guided the Sky Blues past the Wellington Phoenix. Further victories came against the Perth Glory and Melbourne City before they suffered their first defeat of the campaign at the hands of the Central Coast Mariners.

Strikes from Andrew Hoole and Jake McGing condemned Arnold’s men to the loss on the road. The response was immediate from Sydney, defeating Newcastle Jets 2-1 in their next outing at the Allianz Stadium. It was part of a run of seven-straight victories, including hammerings of Western Sydney Wanderers and the Glory, crushing the latter 6-0 at home. Bobo rescued a point for the Sky Blues to avoid defeat to the Jets, which ended their winning run. Arnold’s men have remained solid in their play in recent weeks, despite drawing three of their last six matches. They put four goals past the Phoenix on 2nd February.

If they maintain that level of form in front of goal, it will be hard for any team in the league to stop their surge for the crown. The Sky Blues have been imperious and are backed in the latest football odds of 5/6 to win the A-League in successive years. Despite their dominance, there will be challenges ahead, with five teams behind them in the table battling for position to knock Sydney off in the playoffs.

Potential Challengers

The Jets are directly behind Sydney in the table, but are nine points of the pace. Newcastle may need home-field advantage to knock off their rivals. They put forward an excellent performance in their clash at the beginning of January, leading Arnold’s men twice in the contest. However, the three points were taken away from them by Bobo’s late effort. The Brazilian loomed large in their clash earlier in the campaign, scoring the decisive second goal in their 2-1 victory.

Newcastle could put forward two good outings and their home match against Sydney could dictate whether they could defeat the defending champions in a fourth meeting of the term.

The Victory were the team that took Sydney all the way last season. However, in their games this term, Arnold’s men have registered a 100% record, despite playing both matches away from home. Their two victories have taken their dominant record over Melbourne to six wins on the bounce. The Sky Blues would welcome the sight of Kevin Muscat’s team in the playoffs. In their last clash, Berisha did put the Victory ahead from the spot, but Sydney would score three goals in the final 30 minutes, with Bobo notching a brace to secure the victory.

Melbourne City sit third in the table and could challenge the Sky Blues. They took the lead in their last match at the Allianz Stadium, only to be blown away by Sydney’s reaction. However, they lack the experience for a deep run in the playoffs, having never reached the Grand Final in the history of the A-League.

Image source: Pixabay.com

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avatarThis post was written by a Staff Writer for Ultimate A-League

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