Melbourne Heart may be languishing at the bottom of the A-League table and still searching for their first win of the season but Sydney FC are wary that the return of their captain Harry Kewell could have an immediate impact.
The former Liverpool, Galatasaray and Leeds player is a chance to make his first start in the A-League since round one after overcoming whiplash and an ankle injury. His inclusion could elicit the change in Heart's fortunes, says Sydney midfielder Nicky Carle.
Kewell made his first appearance in eight games last week in a late cameo away to Western Sydney Wanderers that lifted his team's performance to hold on for a 1-1 draw at Parramatta. His role in that game, particularly his influence at an important stage of the match, combined with the recent improvement of the Heart is a warning to Sydney that they can't approach Sunday's game with complacency, Carle says.
Morale booster: Heart's Harry Kewell. Photo: Getty Images
''We all know that he's an amazing player, the morale boost will be massive for their boys and he wants to do well for his new club. It's still only his third outing for them and we will have to make sure that we're on our game to get the right result,'' Carle said.
''Anyone can beat anyone in the A-League … I think they've been a lot better team than what results have shown. They've got a big boost with Harry getting back, I feel a result against Wanderers at their home ground was a morale-boosting result.
''It's going to be a really dangerous one for us at home.
Central defender Matt Jurman was not only cautious of the morale boost the return of Kewell will provide, but also the difficult job in keeping Heart's captain quiet now that he has returned to fitness. Jurman has started in Sydney's last two games alongside Serbian defender Nikola Petkovic and admits that the contest will be much more difficult than the form guide suggests.
''You could say it is a bit of a danger game for us but playing at home in front of our home crowd, we've got a bit of a record there but hopefully at home we can get a good start and get a win there again. Every team can hurt you in the A-League, you've got to be at your best, otherwise you can lose quite easily,'' Jurman said.
''Harry's a quality player, he's been around for a while but I'm sure he will be pushing for a start this week, It will be up to me and Nikola to keep him quiet.''
Sydney made an early Christmas visit to the Sydney's Children Hospital on Tuesday afternoon to deliver presents to patients, which was not only a rewarding sense of charity for the players, but also a chance to take their mind off their 1-0 loss to Central Coast Mariners last Saturday.
''It puts everything into perspective and football is definitely on the backburner, it is about the kids, making them happy.'' Carle said. ''Once the weekend comes, we'll do everything right. This afternoon is about putting a smile on kids' faces.''