Sydney FC will be hoping to celebrate captain Alex Wilkinson’s 300th A-League appearance by heaping more pain on Melbourne City in Tuesday night’s clash at AAMI Park.
The Sky Blues stalwart will become just the fifth player in league history to bring up the milestone, joining Andrew Durante, Leigh Broxham, Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Liam Reddy.
After a scoreless draw against Brisbane Roar on Saturday, the reigning champions are eager to rebound in the grand-final rematch.
The Sky Blues do not have to look too far for motivation, with evergreen defender Wilkinson established as a genuine club and A-League great.
Wilkinson’s longevity and durability is remarkable when you consider he started his career 19 years ago in the former National Soccer League for Northern Spirit, and also left the A-League for a three-year stint playing in South Korea.
After a 172-game spell with Central Coast Mariners, followed by his time overseas, Wilkinson had a brief stay at Melbourne City before joining Sydney FC in 2016.
“It’s a bit of a coincidence (City providing the opposition for his 300th appearance) but once the game starts you don’t think too much about any of this,” Wilkinson said.
“We were unlucky not to get a win against Brisbane … so if we continue that (form) into the Melbourne City game we’re confident we can get three points.
“We’ve built up a great rivalry with City over the last few seasons.”
The Melbourne club have endured a difficult start to the season under new coach Patrick Kisnorbo following last year’s maiden grand-final appearance, which they lost 1-0 to Sydney in August.
They sit 10th on the table after three consecutive defeats, although this will be their first outing since a 1-0 loss to Newcastle on February 7.
Experienced pair Rostyn Griffiths and Andrew Nabbout make welcome returns to the squad from injury.
“Over the 90 minutes you can’t give them (Sydney FC) half a chance otherwise they could score or punish you,” Kisnorbo said.
“We need to try and break them down as best as we can because they’ve consistently been the best team over a four-year period.”
A-LEAGUE APPEARANCES TOP FIVE
1. Andrew Durante (Western United, Wellington, Newcastle) – 342 games
2. Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Newcastle, Western Sydney, Perth, Sydney FC) – 327
3. Leigh Broxham (Melbourne Victory) – 322
4. Liam Reddy (Perth, Western Sydney, Central Coast, Sydney FC, Wellington, Brisbane, Newcastle) – 309
5. Alex Wilkinson (Sydney FC, Melbourne City, Central Coast) – 299