The Sky Blues coach has been forced to shuffle his pack amid a defensive crisis, but he can at least count on two seasoned players further afield
|By JOHN GRECO
Frank Farina will lean on two decorated internationals and a brash teenager to re-ignite spluttering Sydney FC in the hope of launching a New Year revival against Perth Glory on Saturday.
Italian hero Alessandro Del Piero and one-time regular Australia international Jason Culina boarded the plane west on Friday and are expected to start in a match crucial to Sydney's season following three losses from their past four games.
Exciting 16-year-old Aaron Calver is also tipped to begin the game in the centre of the Sky Blues' injury-depleted defensive line-up, while the creative Ali Abbas returns to further bolster the midfield.
After watching his young and inexperienced side shot down 3-0 by Adelaide on New Year's Eve, Farina is relieved to have some old hard heads back for their first game of 2013.
"We were very light going into the Adelaide game so anyone we're getting back is a welcome prospect," the Sydney coach said on Thursday.
"It's a big boost. When you look at our bench last week we had a 16-year-old, a 17-year-old and an 18-year-old with an average age throughout the squad of 21, 22.
"You've got to deal with the cards you've got and we'll put out the best possible formation we can but it's been hard to work on a structure and a format because you're missing players week in week out."
Calver may be too young to drive or vote but he showed against Adelaide that he will not be pushed around or overawed by the occasion.
Farina is a big promoter of youth and will not hesitate to throw the teenager in against Glory's street-wise front men if he believes it will benefit Sydney's cause.
"It could be that way. I won't make a decision until we get to Perth but that's a major possibility," he said when asked if Calver would start.
"He played 75 minutes last week [off the bench] so age is not a barrier for me.
"If you're good enough, you're old enough although physically he's still maturing.
"It's a great experience for him and great for the future of the club as well."
After a brief foray away from the A-League basement around Christmas, the Sky Blues enter their first match of 2013 rock bottom again.
Time is fast running out if they are to make anything of a forgettable season but defender Trent McClenahan remains optimistic - starting with a result against his former club.
He said: "It's been a tough season but a couple of results and things can change.
"You've always got to remain positive.
"We've got quality players coming back in [for Perth] and hopefully it bodes well for us."