Sydney FC's Milos Ninkovic (right) looms as a key player in Sunday's A-League grand final clash against Melbourne Victory.
Sydney FC's Milos Ninkovic (right) looms as a key player in Sunday's A-League grand final clash against Melbourne Victory. PAUL MILLER

Sydney FC determined to win mind game

FOOTBALL: The A-League grand final could come down to mind over matter, says Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold.

While a lot of the talk has focused on the physical battle and that whoever wins it will come out on top in the decider at Alliance Stadium, the experienced Arnold reckons being in the right frame of mind could tip the balance in his side's favour.

"The mental aspect is big this week," Arnold said ahead of Sunday's much-anticipated Big Blue grand final.

"We do a lot of work mentally with the players.

"Around social media and media these days there's a lot of negativity we need to remove from the players' brains and minds to make sure they go into a game positive.

"Mike Conway works with the players to make sure mentally they're fresh and they're ready.

"He's not a psychologist, he's an emotional intelligence coach.

"(He) removes any types of issues that there are and we're ready to play."

Sydney FC has had a record-breaking campaign after finishing seventh last season and missing the playoffs.

Since then the Sky Blues have turned it around. They went 19 games without loss and was on course to become the first club outfit in Australia to go a whole season without defeat.

Despite not achieving that feat, the Sky Blues have still powered on, setting the record for most number of points in a 10-team league (66) before winning the Premier's Plate by a whopping 17 points ahead of tomorrow's opponents.

Arnold has publicly acknowledged he was unhappy with his own performance last season.

Determined to avoid a repeat, he has worked extensively this season with coaching mentor Bradley Charles Stubbs.

One of the things they have spoken about has been an expect-to-win philosophy.

"I don't think we're bullish," Arnold said.

"I just think we're confident and expect to win.

"It's what we do every week.

"You couldn't imagine me standing here today saying we expect to lose."

The Sky Blues will go into the game as favourites on current form.

They have won their last three games against Victory but at no point in the 41-game history between the two teams has either team won four consecutive games.

One edge that the Victory has is its finals record against tomorrow's opponents.

The Melbourne outfit is undefeated against Sydney FC in five finals clashes, including a 3-0 win when these teams met in the 2015 grand final.

Sydney FC will be looking to make it the fourth consecutive A-League season where the Premiers have gone on to win the grand final, a scenario which has played out in seven of the past 11 campaigns.

News Corp Australia

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