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Grand final fever: Sydney FC marquee misses training due to sickness

While de Jong’s fever was hardly welcome news for Sydney FC’s coaching staff, they were buoyed by the return of Michael Zullo to full training. The left back suffered a shoulder knock during their 6-1 win over Melbourne Victory in Sunday’s semi-final but is on course to be back to full fitness in time to face Perth Glory.

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Sydney centre-back Alex Wilkinson has been almost ever-present for the Sky Blues since arriving three years ago, playing in 83 of a possible 85 A-League games. While he has been a consistent feature in the heart of Sydney’s defence, he has been forced to adapt to plenty of changes around him. Despite upheaval caused by player availabilities, he’s maintained a lead a strong backline and improving the performances of those around him to the extent some pundits have dubbed it “the Wilkinson effect”. However, he is refusing to claim responsibility for raising the standard, suggesting that much comes from the club’s head coach, Steve Corica.

“I don’t know if there is any truth to that at all. When the younger guys come in, it’s important that as a senior player you communicate with them, talk to them and keep that communication going throughout the game,” Wilkinson said. “We do a lot of game situations on the pitch and when a player is called upon to step in they know exactly what’s required of them and that’s a credit of the coaching staff.”

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