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Arnold soaks up Sydney semi-final pressure

NZN 27/04/2017 Emma Kemp

It all comes down to this, but Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold will be damned if anyone even suspects he's feeling the pressure.

Two days out from a crunch semi-final against Perth that will - fairly or not - define the Sky Blues' historic A-League campaign, it was business as usual for Arnold.

The seasoned manager has been through all this before, with three grand finals and a championship already under his belt over stints at Sydney and Central Coast.

This time, though, the legacy on the line adds another layer of significance.

A near-flawless home-and-away season was highlighted by an all-time league-high points tally and a host of other records, punctured only by a single defeat.

Against Perth in particular, Sydney have been rampant, scoring 13 goals over four A-League and FFA Cup wins while conceding just two.

But come off second best at Allianz Stadium, and the title push is all over.

If Arnold was mulling over of the gravity of Saturday night's showdown, he gave away nothing.

Perhaps the only hint was the 53-year-old's reluctance to indulge in his customary banter.

The master of mind games offered no retort to Adam Taggart's suggestion Sydney might "let their guard slip", simply stressing 'complacency' is not a word in his team's lexicon.

But what about Allianz Stadium's patchy pitch, set to be further roughed up by an NRL game on Friday?

No worries, it will play to Sydney's technical superiority.

And the Glory's physicality and aerial threat?

He'll whip out human wrecking ball Matt Simon if need be.

And as Kenny Lowe's Diego Castro-inspired side embrace their underdog status and pile on the pressure, Arnold simply soaked it up.

"I've always been confident," Arnold said.

"Obviously we've got a fantastic 27 rounds behind us, and moving into round 28 it's a great feeling. For me it's excitement.

"The way the boys have trained this week has been exceptional, but I still believe we have more in us.

"We come into training every day preparing to win the game, and we expect to win on Saturday night.

"The boys are in a fantastic mental state, and physically we're in top shape.

"It's about going out there, exposing their weaknesses and playing to our strengths."

In a massive boost, Arnold confirmed Milos Ninkovic would start after overcoming an ankle injury suffered during a nasty tackle in their final-round win over Newcastle.

"One-hundred per cent (he'll start)," Arnold said.

"He's trained all week with the group and did a physical session yesterday."

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