The memory of two thumping defeats this season will provide ample motivation for Sydney FC against league leaders Brisbane Roar on Friday night, says defender Sebastian Ryall.
The Sky Blues were demolished 4-0 at Suncorp Stadium in round two and 5-2 at Allianz Stadium in round 12, two results that aptly demonstrated the gulf in class between the two sides.
Ryall admits it is difficult to separate Brisbane’s overwhelming attacking talent – which includes the likes of Besart Berisha, Thomas Broich, Dimitri Petratos, Matt McKay and Liam Miller – and their defence, which has conceded less than a goal a game on average (20 goals in 22 games) this season.
“You can’t really pinpoint any one of their players; they’re a great side and they’ve shown that against us this season already,” he said. “They’ve absolutely killed us in the two matches we’ve played, so we’re expecting a tough match. But we’re at home, we’ve got the fans behind us.”
Sydney at least appear in better form this time around, having won three of their past four matches. And Ryall says they’ve done their homework on Mike Mulvey's side, who outwitted the in-form Adelaide United 2-1 last week.
“We’ve analysed Brisbane, we’ve got our game plan and obviously we’re going to be playing a different kind of game to the last one when it didn’t work,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity to play against the top team. It’s going to be a tough match, but we’re prepared for it.”
The Roar are 10 points clear of second-placed Western Sydney and are now red-hot favourites to win their third league title, which would make them the only A-League club to have won a trio of championships.
“For sure, they’re the best team in the league and I think they’ve proven that this year,” Ryall said. “They’ve got a great squad and play really good football. It will be a good test for us and I think we’re up for it.”
However, the Sky Blues can’t be discounted on form, last week’s dramatic come-from-behind 3-1 win in the Sydney derby delivering a huge shot of self-belief.
“With five matches left, after getting a result against Western Sydney, it’s a confidence boost and every match from now on is vital and we need to pick up maximum points if we can,” Ryall said.
"It’s such a tight competition and we’ve been a bit hot and cold throughout the year. We’ve had some tough periods, but it’s a good squad that we have here and coming into the last matches, we’ve got some big games.
“Beating Western Sydney has been good for everyone here. We’re a tight group and we’ve got the confidence in each other and anything can happen from here on in.”
Only five points separates the second-placed Wanderers from seventh-placed Newcastle, meaning the finals puzzle is far from complete, and seemingly changing each weekend.
Incredibly, a win for Sydney FC could hoist them as high as second, a remarkable possibility considering the side went into the Sydney derby outside the top six.
“We’re taking it each match at a time, because you if you look at the ladder, it’s so close between second and way down to eighth,” Ryall said. “It’s just a matter of picking up points each week and after a good performance against Western Sydney we need to bounce back from that and pick up something again.”
Ryall says his teammates have spoken about the major talking point of last week’s derby – Ali Abbas’ accusation of being racially abused by a Wanderers' player – but that it was now in the hands of the governing body.
“We have spoken about it, but it’s not really for me to comment right now,” he said. “It’s for the FFA and they’ll look after it.”