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Sydney FC take mental edge into Big Blue

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 22/01/2017 Emma Kemp

A-League title favourites Sydney FC enter this week's Big Blue with a psychological advantage after nearest rivals Melbourne Victory were brought undone by their gruelling road trip.

Two away losses in five days scuppered Victory's chance to climb within two points of the Sky Blues ahead of Thursday's top-of-the-table clash.

Had they achieved it, and then inflicted the first defeat of the season on Graham Arnold's leaders at Etihad Stadium, top spot would have been theirs.

Back-to-back capitulations - 3-0 to Wellington and 2-1 to Perth - leave Kevin Muscat's men eight points adrift of the summit.

Now, they must contemplate how to topple a team unbeaten in 16 games, including 12 wins and 10 clean sheets.

It's unenviable reading for any opposing coach, but Muscat refused to surrender his now severely dented goal of clinching the Premiers' Plate.

"I'll never give up - it's not in my nature," Muscat said.

"I'll make sure I surround myself with people of a like mind to myself.

"We've still got to play Sydney twice ... we won't need any motivation this week.

"Prior to these two games we'd won six on the bounce, so I'm certainly not going to panic."

Sydney captain Alex Brosque heaped all the heat on Victory, declaring the Big Blue "a must win for them, not for us" after Friday's cruisy 2-0 home triumph over Adelaide afforded his team valuable breathing space.

"It takes a lot more pressure off us," said Brosque, who scored his ninth goal of the campaign.

Meanwhile, fifth-placed Perth's come-from-behind win keeps them in touch with the top four and momentum rolling following a period of perceived crisis - though Rhys Williams' club future remains a mystery.

"The whole league can change in a matter of two weeks," Glory coach Kenny Lowe said.

"You can play three games, win your three and then it's party time."

The Glory remain three points behind Brisbane, who took maximum reward from Wellington in New Zealand courtesy of Jamie Maclaren's 87th-minute strike to break a scoreless deadlock.

Melbourne City managed to stay third after a Tim Cahill brace secured an unconvincing 2-1 result over a visiting 10-man Central Coast.

City lacked their ruthless touch against the league's cellar dwellers, who played a man down for more than an hour following striker Roy O'Donovan's controversial send-off.

But Cahill's rescue job at either end of the first half was enough to secure a vital second win in seven weeks and lift within six points of Victory.

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