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Sydney, Melbourne Victory at full strength for grand final

Associated Press logo Associated Press 4/05/2017

SYDNEY — Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory have announced full-strength squads for Sunday's A-League grand final, with Sydney looking to cap a dominating season with a championship title.

The final is being billed as the "Big Blue," the Australian colloquial for a fight, with the Sky Blues of Sydney at home to the dark blue of the Victory in an interstate grudge match.

Sydney coach Graham Arnold is expected to field the starting XI he has favored throughout the team's premiership-winning form in the regular season, unchanged from last weekend's 3-0 semifinal win over Perth.

Winger Bernie Ibini has been picked in the extended Sydney squad but is an unlikely prospect after injuring a hamstring against the Glory.

Victory coach Kevin Muscat has included all his starters from Sunday's 1-0 semifinal win over Brisbane, with young forward George Howard and midfielder Stefan Nigro earning promotions.

Sydney FC broke records on the way to winning the Premiers' Plate — 66 points from 27 games, a record points tally. It also broke the record for biggest margin between first and second, sitting 17 points ahead of the second-place Victory.

The grand final will be played on a pitch potentially damaged by a Super Rugby match on Saturday after failed negotiations to move the New South Wales Waratahs vs. Auckland-based Blues game to an alternative venue.

FFA chief executive David Gallop said soccer organizers and the New South Wales state government asked the Waratahs to move the rugby match to North Sydney Oval, but that proved unfeasible.

Gallop said the standard of the pitch for last weekend's semifinal between Sydney FC and Perth "had a noticeably detrimental effect on the play."

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