|By STEVE ORME
Sydney FC coach Ian Crook has urged his players to embrace the hype ahead of Saturday's A-League blockbuster against Emile Heskey and the Newcastle Jets.
The Sky Blues are expecting a record crowd in excess of 30,000 at Allianz Stadium for Italian superstar Alessandro del Piero's first home game for his new club.
Media interest in the match has also reached unprecedented levels, with a 30-strong press contingent on hand to watch del Piero and his team-mates train on Thursday.
"It'll be a great atmosphere I'm sure here on the weekend," Crook said.
"Obviously it's Alessandro's first game at home and there's been a lot of hype around that and I think it's just one that we should just embrace and enjoy.
"It's not too often over the years we've been able to get close to a full house so it'll be brilliant."
Asked if he expects del Piero to play a full game after playing all 90 minutes in Sydney's 2-0 loss against the Phoenix in Wellington, Crook replied: "It was a surprise last week [that he played 90 minutes]. I mean if you'd have ask last week I'd have said, 'There's no way he'll play 90 minutes', but we'll just keep watching him and assessing him throughout the game.
"Last week every five minutes in that second half we kept calling out to him and he said, 'No, I'm fine'.
"He felt a bit tired after the trip, it was a long trip for him... but he's pulled up well and is a lot better today."
Crook admits the former Juventus star has exceeded his expectations since arriving late last month.
"I can't explain how well he's fitted in," the coach said.
"We've been very fortunate with him being pretty open with everything, so it's been a delight to have him here.
"For somebody that's achieved what he has he's just so down to earth."
The Sky Blues will enter the Jets clash without midfielder Terry Antonis after he suffered concussion against the Phoenix.
Former Jet Ali Abbas ran alongside skipper Terry McFlynn in central midfield throughout Thursday's training session, however Crook was coy when asked who will fill the void left by Antonis.
"We've got a couple of options at the moment, whether we put young [Hagi] Gligor in or bring Dimi Petratos in there," he said.
"We'll have a look at things, assess things from today and sit down and decide that."
Meanwhile, Crook remains hopeful of signing Socceroos stalwart Jason Culina in the near future.
"Jason's been training with us since day one, we spoke about helping him with his rehab and we're just progressing it day by day," he said.
"When Jason feels he's ready we'll sit down and have a chat and then we'll decide which way to go there."We'd love him to be part of this club if and when he feels he's right."