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Sydney play pressure card but Glory won’t take bait

THE set pieces are done, the conditioning finished, the tactics set. Only the grand final mind games remained to be fought.

With the hours ticking down to the game to anoint this season's champions, Sydney FC captain Alex Brosque could see a mental edge for his team in the experience of big games and fraught atmosphere.

But not for Tony Popovic, the Perth Glory coach certain his team is ready to grasp the moment and hold the championship trophy aloft.

 

With just a handful of tickets remaining to make it a capacity crowd at Optus Stadium, Popovic simply smiled when his record of losing three grand finals was brought up once more.

After the heart-stopping defeat of Adelaide last weekend on penalties, to earn this home grand final, Popovic believes his squad has been forged by the heat of that furnace into an unstoppable unit.

"The focus is on the game at hand, the final piece of our journey this year," he said.

"The players are definitely ready to perform - I'm as excited as the fans to see how they perform, and I expect a fantastic performance.

"I believe our players have grown in mental strength. They have embraced every challenge, come back in games where we were dead and buried.

Alex Brosque is confident Sydney hold the trump card on Sunday night.
Alex Brosque is confident Sydney hold the trump card on Sunday night.

"Everyone has talked about Adelaide's mentality to stay in last weekend's semifinal, but we forget the mental strength that we showed.

"I saw something in our group that convinced me we are ready for any challenge, whatever happens on the park in the grand final.

"We've been the best team all season, this game is the icing on the cake."

Sydney, though, believe they hold a trump card in the experience of playing in front of such a big crowd, most of all the derby two and a half years ago at ANZ Stadium that set a record for a club game in Australia at almost 62,000.

Brosque couldn't help but question whether Perth will be ready in the same way.

Tony Popovic can’t wait for his side to play in front of a capacity crowd at home.
Tony Popovic can’t wait for his side to play in front of a capacity crowd at home.

"I think I remember the build up, the lead up into that game but then nothing really prepares you for when you walk out in front of 60,000 people, and the game kicks off," he said.

"Those first couple of touches can make a big difference in how you settle and how your team settles. The fact that we have dealt with that before, definitely I think helps us.

"We've got a lot of players that have handled that sort of pressure before. With Perth, I guess we'll wait and see how they respond to it.

"The fact that we've had big games like that and big crowds before, and dealt with it very well, has me confident for tomorrow."

Both coaches reported cleans bills of health, with Michael Zullo's shoulder not preventing him from taking his place in what is expected to be an unchanged Sydney line-up from last weekend's thumping 6-1 defeat of Melbourne Victory in the semifinal.

Popovic said that Neil Kilkenny had trained all week, despite an ankle injury, and hinted he may yet change his team despite the defeat of Adelaide. Most of although, he will enjoy the occasion.

"It's not a burden to be in a grand final," he said.

"It's a privilege and an honour. I'll take being in the grand final every year."

SYDNEY FC RIGHT BACK RHYAN GRANT RUNS THE RULE OVER HIS TEAMMATES

Andrew Redmayne

'The Pink Wiggle' after his penalty save antics this season and that viral video. Legend of a bloke.

Aaron Calver

'Darren the Dog'. A 'playa' on and off the field.

Michael Zullo

'Wet Lettuce'. He always has a niggle and will tell you about it.

Alex Wilkinson

'Daddy'. One of the adults amongst us who we look up to. Played in the World Cup and kept quiet some of the world's greatest strikers.

Josh Brillante

'Showers'. He's very clean and showers a lot.

Brandon O'Neill

'Gym Junkie'. He's never out of there and is determined to get everything out of his body he can.

Milos Ninkovic

'Braté'. One of the all time best blokes and like a brother to us all. Can play a bit too.

Siem de Jong

'Mr Suave'. An absolute king in the wardrobe department. Always immaculately dressed.

Alex Brosque

'Sydney FC's GOAT'. What more can you say?

Adam Le Fondre

'Played In The Prem'. He's so modest he never actually talks about it but we give him stick. The best finisher in this league and a funny guy as well.

Rhyan Grant

'Mullet Man'. Get plenty of banter about my hair and style but just an everyday bloke.

Alex Cisak

'Fines Snitch'. Always keeping an eye on the clock and appearance.

Paulo Retre

'Best Chest In The A-League'. Because he's got the biggest chest I've seen!

Danny De Silva

'Swaggy D'. Just because he dresses with swag.

Anthony Caceres

'Twinkle Toes'. Can get out of the tightest of situations with those feet.

Reza Ghoochannejhad

'Pumper'. Loves the expensive lifestyle.

EXPERTS TIPS

DAVID DAVUTOVIC

This one promises to be tight and has drama written all over it. Little splits these two, including one win apiece in Western Australia this season. An intriguing tactical duel is set to unfold between ex-Socceroos and Sanfrecce Hiroshima teammates Tony Popovic and Steve Corica.

GLORY 2-1 (after extra-time)

EMMA KEMP

Sydney FC to win 2-1

This is a genuine cliff-hanger, an almost indivisible showdown. Perth have the cutting edge and the popular vote, not to mention confidence in droves after last week's epic semi-final, but Sydney have been discounted far too often this season, and last weekend's 6-1 thrashing suggests there are more goals to come.

TOM SMITHIES

Perth Glory to win by one goal.

The best two teams contest the grand final which is as it should be, and Perth have been the very best team all season. Sydney gave one of their great performances in blowing Melbourne Victory away, and I wonder if they can summon up another against a side driven so hard by the iron will of Tony Popovic.

News Corp Australia


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