• Christian Marchetti

Season Preview: Can the Sky Blues make it a three-peat?

With the new A-League season right around the corner, Front Page Football will be breaking down each club's chances and what we can expect from them in 2020-21.


Next up is back-to-back champions Sydney FC.


How did they fare last season?


Sydney made it back-to-back A-League titles in 2019-20, after defeating Melbourne City in the final thanks to an extra-time winner from Rhyan Grant.


Contrastingly to their title win in 2018-19, where Perth arguably deserved it more, the Sky Blues were the best team in the country last season.

Rhyan Grant holding the A-League Championship Trophy back in August. (AAP)


They netted a joint league-high 49 goals and conceded just 25, also the division's best record.


Kosta Barbarouses and Alexander Baumjohann made immediate impacts after controversial moves from Sydney's main rivals, Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers.


The other positive was young Joel King's emergence at left-back, mainly because of Sydney's inability to give young players regular first-team football in recent seasons.


What is expected of them this season?


Like almost every other team in the league, Sydney has lost at least one key player from last season's success.


Adam Le Fondre adapted brilliantly to football down under, netting an astonishing 45 times in just 68 appearances during his two-year stint.


But he has departed for pastures new in India, with Sydney yet to replace the Englishman.


They haven't strengthened the squad in other areas either, and if anything their quality, on paper, has declined.


Nonetheless, a championship has always been the target for Sydney FC in recent seasons.


After back-to-back titles, you wouldn't expect them to prioritise anything else.


Unlike other managers in the league though, Corica has built up a rapport with the Sydney hierarchy that ensures it is not a 'silverware or else' situation.


Given the lack of recruitment, though, the 47-year-old may make tactical changes, to avoid his side being found out.


Their 4-2-2-2 formation has brought much success in recent years.


However, every system has its flaws, and Corica may be better suited to switching things up, to keep the chasing pack on their toes.


Players to watch?


Trent Buhagiar was fantastic in Sydney's recent Asian Champions League fixtures, netting four goals in five games.


The quality of finishing on display was first-class as well, with Buhagiar starting to use his electrifying pace to devastating effect.

Trent Buhagiar was excellent in Qatar recently. (Brendan Esposito)


Ninković and Baumjohann's creativity is crucial, and their star qualities are what Sydney rely on consistently.


Barbarouses is still a significant threat, but in Qatar, he showed he might not replace Le Fondre's poaching ability, with the 30-year-old's finishing very questionable.


Any youngsters coming through?


The previously mentioned King will be hoping to feature just as much as last season and keep the more experienced Michael Zullo out of the starting lineup.


Luke Ivanovic has featured consistently off the bench in recent seasons.


However, he will hope to break into the starting eleven more often this time around.


Scholarship players Calem Nieuwenhof and Adam Pavlesic impressed in the Champions League recently, and they could get their chance in 2020-21.


And how's the manager?


Based on pure statistics alone, Steve Corica has one of the most impressive records of any A-League coach ever.


To win two titles in only two seasons of coaching is virtually a perfect record.


However, his critics will argue that the sheer squad quality and excellent recruitment flatters the coach's ability.

Getty Images


That's why this season should be his most formidable challenge yet, given the lack of recruitment and the goals they will lose from Le Fondre's exit.


Will he change their system? Will he have to look at giving more exciting young talent at the club a chance?


Only time will tell to see whether these questions are answered.