Champs Sydney eye more A-League success
A fourth A-League championship is nice but Sydney FC captain Alex Wilkinson wants his team to add the premiers' plate to their haul in 2019-20.
The Sky Blues kick off the A-League season on Friday against Adelaide United again among the pre-season favourites.
While many of their rivals underwent squad overhauls or coaching changes in the off-season, Sydney did their business swiftly.
The arrival of Kosta Barbarouses from Melbourne Victory fills the void left by Alex Brosque's retirement, Luke Brattan coming in from Melbourne City while Josh Brillante goes the other way is a mutually beneficial trade.
Ryan McGowan's return to Australia is surely an upgrade on Dutchman Jop van der Linden, who never quite impressed at Sydney.
It's a process of steady rejuvenation which Wilkinson says plays a big part in their ongoing success.
"Our goal is to win the premiership and the championship and that all starts this week," Wilkinson told AAP.
"We've had some success and the board, coaches and staff have managed to keep the core group of players together which I think is really important.
"You don't always see that in the A-League.
"There has been changes but there's been changes every year and we've just managed to bring in five-six new players, integrate them into the group really well and continue on with that success."
Sydney will head to Adelaide without goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne and fullback Rhyan Grant however after both were called up into the Socceroos squad for World Cup qualifiers against Nepal and Taiwan.
A bid to get Redmayne released has failed, meaning 22-year-old Thomas Heward-Belle will make his A-League debut against the Reds.
The hosts meanwhile are out to begin their season by ending a run of nine matches against Sydney without a win.
Ex-Socceroo James Troisi could feature after signing last week, but new coach Gertjan Verbeek may feel the former Victory playmaker is not quite match-fit following his late arrival.
Another Adelaide product, Riley McGree, will be eager to impress in his A-League debut for his hometown club however following his off-season move from Belgium's Club Brugge.