Del Piero and Emerton set to return

Sydney FC's hopes of returning to form have received a boost as star players Alessandro Del Piero and Brett Emerton are close to lining up for the Sky Blues' Boxing Day clash against Brisbane Roar.

The Italian great has missed two of the last three games for Sydney FC, both of which ended in defeat, but is expected to be included on the team sheet on Thursday after overcoming a niggling back problem. Del Piero has not played since withdrawing himself at half-time in the round-10 win over Melbourne Heart due to muscle soreness in his back but completed a full training session on Tuesday and is expected to be fit to play against the Roar.

The club captain missed the side's 1-0 loss away to Wellington last weekend, alongside Emerton who was also suffering back problems. Emerton made his comeback against the Heart but took no part in last Sunday's defeat in New Zealand, which gave the Phoenix their first home win of the year.

Before Tuesday's training session, Farina said he would not likely risk playing the two veterans unless they were fully fit, but the two have worked their way back into contention and were named in the preliminary match squad for Thursday's match against the league leaders.

"If they're not ready tomorrow, I'm not sure 24 hours will make a big difference but I'm quietly confident they might be there," he said.

While Del Piero has not suffered a serious injury this season, there are concerns age is finally creeping up with the Italian great who has been forced off due to muscle soreness on three occasions this season. The 39-year-old has also missed another three games – in part as a precaution to prevent injury – but Farina denies the frequent uncertainty over his availability is a causing any instability.

"No, it's not frustrating," Farina said. "It's not a distraction. It's football. It's life at football clubs and we're not the only ones that go through it.

If his past record against the Roar is anything to go by, he will likely etch his name on the scoresheet again.

The round-12 clash against the Roar is the first time Sydney have played the two-time A-League champions since being on the receiving end of a 4-0 drubbing in round two and Farina is cautious of their improvement since.

Brisbane are two points clear at the top of the A-League table and while they will be without prolific striker Besart Berisha, who has a hip injury, Farina believes they will still be at their best and has highlighted German midfielder Thomas Broich as the man to stop.

"They're a very mobile side and they have players that can hurt you," Farina said.

"Thomas Broich is arguably one of the best – if not the best – player in the league in the last two or three years, so you combine all those things together and you've got a formidable side.

"I think if you want to be pushing to stay up the top now is an important time for everyone to keep collecting points and we're no different from the rest."

Roar forward Kwame Yeboah has been named to play Sydney FC despite only recently returning to Australia from Germany after signing a deal with Bundesliga club Borussia Monchengladbach, which he will join in January.

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