EXCLUSIVE: Sydney’s Grand Final woes are mounting with full back Linda O’Neill on antibiotics and centre half Alesha Clifford suspended for the W-League season decider.
To see Sydney girls train...
Clifford was red-carded in the 13th minute of Saturday's 3-0 semi-final win over Canberra United and the club had it confirmed she will sit out Saturday's state of origin grand final against Brisbane at Shark Park in Cronulla.
Aside from the tall central defender, O'Neill (pictured) is on antibiotics ahead of the big game. As options in the W-League squads are limited, Sydney FC coach Alen Stajcic is frantic for the talented Young Matilda to make a swift recovery from the flu.
O'Neill lasted only 37 minutes against Canberra before she succumbed to the virus which had laid her low before the game. O'Neill also missed Monday night's session at Parklea.
"You can guess Alesha is pretty upset, but we knew she'd be banned for the grand final. As for O'Neill we're hoping she'll be right by the middle of the week. We haven't got a lot of choice so we desperately need her to get healthy," Stajcic told au.fourfourtwo.com.
"We desperately need her now especially with Alesha not there. We're struggling for defenders as it is. If only I could transfer Ellyse Perry into our team," he joked.
Stajcic will continue to prepare the sky blue girls the way he has over the last two months with a mid-week game - a move that's worked wonders for a side that needed to gel and gel fast when the season kicked off in early October.
Stajcic says the all-action game-plan which has reaped 15 goals in the last four games won't deviate as he plans for Sydney to overcome the reigning Premiers and take their first ever W-League crown.
"We played them [Roar] in round four and it was a 1-1 draw and we probably just shaded them," he said. "We've progressed a lot since then but Tameka Butt and Elise Kellond-Knight are threats and Courtney Beutel will probably have to start with Sasha McDonnell out - and she's got pace.
"And we know Jo Burgess can beat players for fun and Claire Polkinghorne is a strong defender so we know they're threats - we know their players back to front so there won't be too many surprises from either team but we've got a very creative midfield and some fantastic ball players."
Last season the two teams could only be separated by penalties in their semi-final at Ballymore Stadium, with Brisbane coming out eventual champions. On the head-to-heads, Sydney FC are yet to beat their northern rival while Brisbane Roar have one and two draws.
Sydney will have their familiarisation session at Shark Park on Thursday night followed by a team dinner on Friday ahead of the Grand Final.
Stajcic says the sky blue girls have earned the respect of the Sydney sporting public, and despite Sydney playing Melbourne on the same day in the A-League - robbing the Grand Final of many hardcore sky blue fans - he's hopeful of a big turnout.
He added: "Everyone has to appreciate good football whether it's men or women and no-one can dispute Sydney FC play good football.
"And the Shire is a massive area for football and it's a nice boutique stadium. If there were 2-3000, it'd be a great atmosphere."
The game kicks off 3pm at Shark Park, Cronulla this Saturday. The match will also be live and exclusive on ABC 1 and ABC HD.
To see Sydney girls train...