Arnie plans feisty Villa reception for season opener

Melbourne City superstar David Villa can forget about the red carpet treatment when he fronts Sydney FC in his Hyundai A-League debut on Saturday night.

Sydney coach Graham Arnold has promised the 32-year-old Spanish great – a World Cup winner, a record goal-scorer for his country and genuine football royalty – less than a warm welcome when the two teams open their seasons at what should be a packed Allianz on Saturday evening for the clubs’ season opener.

“He’s a wonderful player and it’s going to be a privilege to have him on the turf at Allianz Stadium, but we won’t be making it very friendly,” Arnold declared at Tuesday’s Hyundai A-League launch.

“You would have seen over the years that these big international names are not given an armchair ride out here and he will be no different.

“Our guys respect David and are excited about the prospect of playing against him, but they won’t be overawed.

“He can expect a hard night’s work. There won’t be an easing in period.”

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Villa, who has scored a record 59 goals in 97 appearances for Spain, only arrived in Australia on Sunday for the start of a 10-game stint.

City coach John van ‘t Schip is still unsure what role Villa will play against Sydney.

And Arnold is as much in the dark.

“I can’t answer that but he will obviously play a part,” Arnold said when asked whether he expected Villa to start.

“I see he’s turned up early but the biggest difference he will found out here is the hardness of the ground.

“He’s also going to need time to get over jetlag and the warmth.

“I know he’s experienced all that before but it does take time to adjust.”

Arnold is more concerned with putting the finishing touches to a Sky Blues squad decimated by injury and/or unavailability due to national duties.

“It would be nice to be at full strength but we’re not,” he said.

“The bookies are tipping City to be favourites and there’s good reason for that, but we’ll put out a very competitive side.

“I can assure our fans we’ll be ready for them.”  

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