With the biggest home crowd in Sydney FC history set to converge on Allianz Stadium this Saturday, Brett Emerton has assured Sky Blues fans there will be no repeat of their disappointing first-up loss.
Sydney's 2-0 defeat at the hands of Wellington has them equal last with Newcastle, their opponents this week, and has left them needing to prove there is substance behind the pre-season hype.
A crowd of close to 35,000 is tipped, with Sydney marquee Alessandro Del Piero vying for the limelight with Newcastle's ex-Premier League star Emile Heskey.
Sydney will be determined to put on a display in front of their home crowd and Emerton said the players were aware that nothing less than a win would suffice.
''It's something we've been expecting now for several weeks after Del Piero's arrival and it should be a fantastic atmosphere on Saturday night,'' Emerton said at training yesterday. ''What we're looking for is a good result after what was a poor start last weekend.
''We found ourselves chasing it much too often and I think, as far as the team is concerned, I wouldn't say they wanted it more than us but physically they were more up for the task ... This Saturday, we're going to make sure that changes against Newcastle.''
Wellington's physicality, especially the unrelenting pressure through the midfield, seemed to spook Sydney and Emerton admitted his teammates must be aware they'll be the focus of more attention than usual this season.
''Definitely, and as far as Sydney Football Club goes ... it's the one team that everybody looks forward to playing against and beating,'' he said. ''It's something we have to deal with week in, week out, and obviously having Alessandro on board, it probably gives them that extra little bit of incentive.''
But with the Jets putting in arguably an even worse performance, a 2-0 loss at home to a jet-lagged Adelaide United side, Sydney know they're not the only club on trial.
''They'll be desperate to get some points on the board as well. We played them in pre-season [a 1-1 draw at Leichhardt Oval] and they're a good team,'' Emerton said. ''There's no bad teams in the league this year. Everyone's tough, and unless you're up for the task 100 per cent, you're not going to win football matches.''
The 33-year-old said his teammates went into the Wellington game feeling ''very confident'' and he was surprised at how the team didn't perform as expected.
''In training and in the games we'd played amongst ourselves, some of the formations being formed were looking fantastic,'' he said. ''But we always find it difficult away in Wellington. I think that's no secret. We'll just put that one behind us and get on with the job. I'm still very confident we're going to have a good season.''
The ex-Blackburn winger said ball retention was the key reason the result didn't go their way.
''Just keeping general possession [was the issue],'' he said. ''We gave the ball away far too easily.
''[But] you can't play well every week. That's football, and there will be bad performances throughout the season. We have to minimise that, try and put things right and find a consistency that lasts through an entire season.''
Del Piero was animated at times during his A-League debut and Emerton said the Italian legend spoke his mind after the game about how the team can get better.
''He's very knowledgeable. He's given us advice and pinpointed what he thinks we can improve on,'' Emerton said. ''Obviously as players we all take that on board and I'm sure the coaching staff will as well.''
Midfielder Terry Antonis stayed in Wellington longer than expected after receiving a knock to the head. He was due to arrive back last night and Emerton does not expect him to play on Saturday.
''He's been diagnosed with concussion and so we're just waiting for him to fly back,'' Emerton said.
''It's unfortunate, he's going to be a big loss for us this weekend but the good thing for us this year is that we've got good depth.''
Meanwhile, FFA chairman Frank Lowy has announced former Socceroo Peter Tredinnick and ex-Sydney FC board member Chris Rex have joined the FFA board.
Ron Walker, who joined the board in 2003, has stepped down.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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