New Perth Glory captain Brandon O’Neill is confident his team’s lack of pre-season games and the late arrival of Daniel Sturridge won’t come back to bite them in Saturday night’s clash with Adelaide at HBF Park.
Western Australia’s strong border stance means Glory have played just two pre-season games – against a WA State team, and against NPL side ECU Joondalup.
Adding to the disruption were the delayed arrivals of star striker Sturridge and Spanish attacker Adrian Sardinero.
Sturridge only had his first training session on Monday following his two-week quarantine stint, while Sardinero arrived just last month.
But O’Neill is adamant his team will be ready to go in their A-League Men’s season opener in front of a big crowd on Saturday night.
“Like a good horse we’ll be going into the season first up,” O’Neill said.
“Sometimes that’s quite an advantage – teams look at you as a bit of a unknown.
“But we’re quietly confident. We’ve prepared as best as we can. The volume and the numbers the lads have been putting out on the field have been quite good.
“The borders have made things difficult in terms of pre-season games, but that’s something we can’t worry about. We focus on round one.”
Sturridge fever has well and truly hit Perth, with Glory hoping to attract a crowd in excess of 15,000 for the season opener despite the 32-year-old being likely to play only a small cameo off the bench.
The former Liverpool and Chelsea star has been cut down by injuries throughout his career, and Glory want to play it carefully with their star acquisition.
What role former La Liga striker Sardinero will play in the season opener is also up in the air given his limited preparation.
O’Neill said the chemistry of the team was already impressive despite the late arrivals of Sturridge and Sardinero.
“We’ve had 16 weeks (to prepare),” O’Neill said.
“Apart from Daniel and Adrian, 95 per cent of the team have trained together for a long time.
“Adrian and ‘Studg’ have come in, they’re top professionals and they’ve fitted in seamlessly.”
After taking on Adelaide, Perth will play at least the next nine games on the road, including an FFA Cup clash with Melbourne Victory.
Adelaide are tipped to finish mid-table after losing Jordan Elsey, Tomi Juric and Al Hassan Toure.
But the return of midfielder Isaias following his two-season stint in Qatar has been a bonus.