Defender Aaron Calver has been picked to start in Sydney FC’s Asian Champions League opener.Graham Arnold is placing his faith in a central defender with less than 10 minutes of A-League playing time this season for Sydney FC’s Asian Champions League opener against South Korea’s Suwon Bluewings.
The coach is adamant the defending A-League champions and current runaway leaders have what it takes to repeat their outstanding domestic form and win the ACL.
Arnold believes his club’s renowned fitness will be a big factor in Wednesday’s Allianz Stadium clash in forecast temperatures of about 30C against a side that has played just one game this year.
With Dutchman Jordy Buijs not in his ACL squad and Seb Ryall recently released, Arnold will start Aaron Calver, who’s missed a large chunk of the season due to a knee injury.
Calver made his senior comeback off the bench against Wellington on February 2, setting up a goal in a nine-minute cameo appearance.
“He’s played a lot of football in the last six weeks with the NYL and in-house friendly games, he’s always done a great job for us and the boys have a lot of trust in him, as I do,” Arnold said.
Asked what he had said to Calver, Arnold replied: “Relax and enjoy it.”
‘When you play beside Alex Wilkinson, and you’ve got players around you that he does have, then he’ll only do a great job, because whoever plays beside Wilkinson always plays great.”
Arnold had his players looking at Suwon on Saturday night soon after the Sky Blues’ 4-0 away thumping of Melbourne City.
“The players have trained the house down the last two days, you can see the excitement in the players themselves,” Arnold said.
“I expect a great performance from the boys they are fresh, they are ready, they are sharp.”
Arnold has reached the last 16 of the ACL with both Central Coast and Sydney.
“With this squad I think we can go the whole way. I honestly believe we can win it,” Arnold said.
“When you’ve got the calibre of strikers we’ve got, you are always a great chance to score goals and we’ve got a great defensive structure.”
SYDNEY FC’S 2018 DRAW
February 14 – Suwon Bluewings (H)
February 21 – Shanghai Shenhua (A)
March 7 – Kashima Antlers (H)
March 13 – Kashima Antlers (A)
April 3 – Suwon Bluewings (A)
April 17 – Shanghai Shenhua (H)
SYDNEY FC’S ACL RECORD
2007 – 2nd in group stage, exit (2 wins, 3 draws, 1 loss) Coach: Branko Culina
2011 – 3rd in group stage, exit (1 win, 2 draws, 3 losses) Coach: Vitezslav Lavicka
2016 – round of 16 exit (3-3 away goal loss to Shandong) Coach: Graham Arnold