Arnold coy on Sydney Derby line-up but vows youth

Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold says he’ll have no hesitation in playing some of his U-20s in central defence in Saturday night’s Sydney Derby, though he was coy on his starting XI for the Wanderers clash.

Heading into the Allianz Stadium clash, the unbeaten Sky Blues have lost two experienced central defenders in the last week, with Matt Jurman leaving for the K-League while Seb Ryall is injured.

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Midfielder Brandon O’Neill shifted to central defence against the Mariners on Sunday, but with Josh Brillante suspended may also be required to play his normal role in the middle of the park.

It’s given Arnold a decision to make as to who will partner Caltex Socceroo Alex Wilkinson at centre-back, with the coach likely to leave it up until Saturday to make the final call.

Discussing his options on Thursday Arnold said he’d have no hesitation throwing in youngsters Patrick Flottman, George Timotheou or Aaron Calver if O’Neill played in midfield.

“We’ve got some fantastic under-20 kids. Patrick Flottman and George Timotheou are international players. They have been waiting for their chance for a long time and have worked extremely hard at training.

“They are part of the youth team that won six trophies last year, they are very good at what they do.

“Aaron Calver [who turned 21 on Thursday] is back and got a lot of experience in the A-League for a young kid. We have plenty of options and I’m very happy with them.”

Aaron Calver

And if O’Neill was to play at centre-back, Arnold had another contingency plan.

“[Milos] Ninkovic last year played there on numerous occasions and maybe a change of the system could happen.

“Especially with the players we have up front. We have another 48 hours to decide.

“Our defence starts from the front. We have a brick wall, we’ve conceded seven goal in 14 games. We’ve had many games this year where [keeper] Danny Vukovic hasn’t had to make a save and I’m confident the same will happen on Saturday night.”

The Sky Blues can draw on their incredible record in the Harbour City clash, which has seen them go unbeaten in eight games spanning more than three years.

Asked the reason for their exceptional record, Arnold said: “It’s the passion the derby brings.

“I know all our players have a huge amount of belief in each other and the occasion.

“We can’t control anything the Wanderers do, we worry about ourselves and when you have the quality in the front half that we have, that’s the biggest reason that belief is like it is.”

As of Thursday morning, just over 200 tickets were left ensuring the clash will be another sell-out at Allianz Stadium.