|By JOHN GRECO
Sydney FC coach Frank Farina has leapt to the defence of marquee man Brett Emerton amid calls the veteran should be dropped for a loss of form.
Ahead of Saturday's vital clash with Central Coast at Allianz Stadium, Farina said he was happy with the 34-year-old's contribution and revealed the Australia international was a definite starter against the Mariners.
Emerton is into his second season of a lucrative three-year deal with the Sky Blues but has so far failed to reach the heights that saw him play at the very top in Europe for a decade.
His performances this season have drawn criticism is some circles, with former Socceroos goal-keeper and Fox Sports commentator Mark Bosnich declaring Emerton does not currently deserve a spot in Sydney FC's star-studded team.
"Brett Emerton - and this hurts me to say this - he needs to be left out," Bosnich said on the Sunday Shootout program on the weekend.
"It's been coming for some time.
"It doesn't matter [how much money he's on]. He'll earn it whether he's playing or not.
"At the moment, he's not doing it [on the pitch]. He needs to be left out for a couple of weeks."
Asked about Bosnich's comments on Thursday, a forthright Farina said: "Everyone has the right to their opinion and I don't have an issue with it.
"But no one was speaking too much when Brett scored the winner against the Central Coast in the 90th minute, scores the equaliser against Melbourne Heart in the 89th minute or sets up the goal in Perth when we drew 2-2.
"By his own admission he probably feels like he can do more.
"Everyone has a right to their opinion but the only opinion that counts in this team and the XI that go on the park is mine.
"Brett will play on Saturday."
Emerton spent much of Thursday's training session on the left-side of midfield but Farina said he would start in his preferred right position against the Mariners.
Back-to-back losses have the Sky Blues sitting a point out of the top six with just four matches of the regular season remaining.
And they face a difficult run of matches to make the top six, with games against the Melbourne Victory [third], Western Sydney Wanderers [first] and Brisbane [sixth] following Saturday's match.
"If we get there we're going to deserve it," Farina said.
"We're playing the top side's so for us to make the six we're going to have to earn it and I think the players realise that.
"There's no tomorrow now really. You can rely on other results but we don't want to be doing that."
Sydney FC copped a 7-2 hiding at the hands of the Mariners early in the season but did win the most recent fixture between the two club's 1-0 in December.