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Can Sydney FC go on with job and take place among greats?

Be grateful for small mercies. Or be careful what you wish for.
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Either thought may be applicable for soccer fans as they contemplate the run out of the current A-League season as it staggers towards its pre-finals conclusion.

Those who advocate a first-past-the-post system to be adopted in Australia, as is the case in most countries round the world, should be mindful of the second axiom.

If this operated here the season would have been over about six or seven weeks before it actually concludes on Easter Sunday. At least there will be something at stake in that game when Perth Glory entertain Melbourne City with both clubs jockeying for position for a finals berth.

Sydney’s all-round excellence was only officially ratified when they disposed of the Glory in Perth a couple of weeks ago when it became mathematically certain they would be Premiers. But the reality is that Graham Arnold’s team has been superior for so much of the season that the Premiers Plate was a foregone conclusion from some time in early February.

For the last six or so weeks of the season the real interest has been two-fold: could Sydney keep their run of sustained excellence going right to the end of the campaign, and which teams will fill the lower (from third place down) rungs of the finals ladder.

In that respect we should be grateful for the small mercy that is the finals system.

In the absence of something every soccer fan (save for the beancounters and business types at the FFA) wants, promotion and relegation, then the skirmishing for those finals spots is the only thing that has been able to sustain interest in the league these past few months.

Now, of course, we are moving to a different phase, and the fascination from mid-April onwards will be all about Sydney and whether they can seal the deal by actually winning the championship.

A title would be a fitting testament to their domination and all-round superiority, but those who like to slow down and survey the scene at car crashes and train wrecks will, of course, be hoping otherwise.

The Sky Blues’ worst nightmare would be to lose to their rivals Western Sydney Wanderers in a semi or grand final, although many would see that as a wonderfully ironic twist to a season that, Sydney apart, has not really set the pulses racing.

Even though their record is superb (only one league loss in 25 games) the Sky Blues took a long time to catch people’s imagination: Arnold-coached teams often do, as the former Mariners and Socceroo boss puts an emphasis on hard work, team structure and discipline and first of all makes his side hard to beat. But the brilliance of Milos Ninkovic, the all-round quality of Bobo and the hard work of the evergreen Alex Brosque has made them a compelling team to watch the longer the season has gone on and the more they have found their groove.

Still, there remains a chance that the Wanderers, a team that has skulked around in mid-table or out of finals contention for most of the season before putting together a strong burst of form in the last month or so of the campaign, could upset the applecart. They are in a rare vein of form, and have some previous here as they are the only side to have beaten Sydney during the regular season. They would relish a meeting with their rivals in the finals and would love nothing more than to destroy Sydney’s Championship dream.

Could Melbourne Victory, clearly the second-best team all season, burst the Sydney bubble in the cruellest of ways?

Their final few matches have been of soporific interest as, like Sydney, they have not been able to change position and be caught for second spot for several weeks. But they seem to be hitting a flat spot at just the wrong time, and having lost three of their last four, will need to start showing some sort of spark pretty soon for anyone to give them a chance.

Outside of these two it is hard to see any of the others stopping Sydney. Melbourne City have the firepower and big-game players in Bruno Fornaroli and Tim Cahill to have a puncher’s chance. Brisbane Roar are competitive with anyone on the day, but lack the consistency of Sydney, while it’s hard to see Perth Glory, another up-and-down unit, keeping it together for three finals games.

It looks like the title is Sydney’s to lose as they bid to become one of the all-time great A-League sides. They just have to keep on keeping on.

THE A-LEAGUE’S GREATEST

Brisbane Roar

Back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011. Put together a record, 36-game unbeaten run.

Melbourne Victory

Won a record first seven games straight in 2006-07, then scored a record 6-0 grand final win with Archie Thompson netting five goals.

Central Coast

Two grand finals in three years (2011 and 2013, when they were champions, and a Premiers Plate in 2012). Also produced several Socceroos in that era.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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