Corica confident Sydney can make ACL impact

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Steve Corica believes his Sydney FC players can put aside the uncertainty over whether they would travel to Qatar to resume their Asian Champions League campaign as the Australian champions set their sights on a place in the knockout rounds.

Doubts had been raised over whether any of the A-League clubs involved in the competition would be permitted to travel by Australian authorities for the tournament in Doha due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions in place.

But with Sydney FC along with Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory all cleared to make the journey, Corica is confident that his team can make an impact on the continental club championship.

“There was doubt whether we were going to travel or not, but I think the boys are past that now and they’re prepared to travel,” he said.

“We’re leaving on Saturday. There’s some great games we’re going to play over there, some great challenges for us against some good teams, so they’re prepared for it now.

“We’ve had a good pre-season. I think they’re looking very fit and they’re playing well. I’m pleased with where we are at the moment.”

Sydney have not played a competitive game since winning the second of their back-to-back A-League Championships in August when Corica’s side beat Melbourne City 1-0 in the Grand Final.

Since then, the club have lost key striker Adam Le Fondre after the Englishman joined Indian side Mumbai City, making their task a lot more challenging.

The Australian side lost their first game in this year’s competition against J-League champions Yokohama F. Marinos in February before managing a draw with two-time winners Jeonbuk Motors.

The tournament was then suspended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and will reconvene next week as a centralised event featuring the 16 teams from the east of the continent.

Sydney’s first game is on Nov. 19 against 2018 Chinese Super League winners Shanghai SIPG and scheduling issues across Asia mean some of their opponents may not be at full strength due to clashing commitments at both home and abroad.

Corica does not have those concerns as the A-League’s new season does not start until Dec. 27, and believes his team have a chance of progressing to the knockout rounds for only the second time in the club’s history.

“We’re going there to try to get through to the next round,” said Corica.

“The boys are prepared for that. I’ve spoken to them about that.

“We don’t want to worry too much about the other teams and whether they’re taking their strongest squads or not.

“It’s an opportunity and we’re going to try to make the most of it.”

Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Christian Radnedge