Sky Blues peaking at right time

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April 25, 2015 09:12:17 UK

Sydney striker Marc Janko.

The long-term planning of coach Graham Arnold and Sydney FC players’ conditioning have put the Sky Blues in position to secure a top-two finish.

That’s the view of the former Central Coast Mariners coach, whose ability was tested at the start of the year when the team’s form gave ammunition to the doubters.

A run of just four points out of a possible 21 threatened to derail their championship ambitions, and Arnold’s team went four games without scoring.

They go to Westpac Stadium on Sunday, though, knowing a point against Wellington Phoenix will be enough to see them finish second in the league and secure a home semi-final.

Since the Asian Cup break, the Sky Blues have picked up 28 points from 12 games and scored 35 goals.

Arnold says their turn-around is due to a number of factors, not least the fact that the players have got fitter.

“I always want my teams to peak in the back end of the season, but before Christmas when we did a lot of work, we couldn’t train as hard as I wanted to,” said the coach.

“It was a gradual process to get them fit. Change takes time, and we had to change the style and the culture of the club.”

The Sky Blues managed to overcome the loss of four players during December to season-ending injuries, by signing quality replacements including Senegalese cousins Mickael Tavares and Jacques Faty.

They go to Wellington looking for the same kind of performance that saw them win 3-0 against the then-leaders a month ago.

A big win against the Phoenix would keep alive their slim hopes of snatching the Premier’s Plate away from Melbourne Victory. They must overturn a seven-goal deficit and hope Kevin Muscat’s side lose their finale at home to Central Coast.

Wellington are 2.55 to beat Sydney FC, who are 2.62 with the draw 3.40.

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