Sky Blues ready for crucial spell

12 March 2018 07:21:42 EST

Sydney FC have been working on defending set-pieces to try to keep their Asian Champions League campaign alive, says striker Matt Simon.

Simon is aware that another defeat for the Sky Blues could prove terminal, following a return of just one point from their first three group games. They face a big challenge on Tuesday when they travel to Kashima Antlers, just a week after being beaten 2-0 by the J-League outfit in Sydney.

Kashima are unbeaten and top the group with seven points, while Graham Arnold's side prop up the table.

They're three points off Suwon Samsung Bluewings who occupy the second qualification spot in Group H and, if the Sky Blues lose in Japan while the Bluewings win away to Shanghai Shenhua, it will effectively end Sydney's hopes of making the knockout stages.

It would leave them six points off the top-two and, having already lost 2-0 at home to Suwon, that result would count against them in the tie-breaker even if the clubs finished level on points.

Simon, who's only managed to score two goals in 23 games this season, said: "In every game we haven't been outplayed, we've matched every team. But the key moments mean a lot, and we need those to go our way.

"Against Kashima at home in the last game, we conceded twice off set-pieces, that made the difference. The staff and players have talked about owning those key moments."

Simon says that although it's a game vital to their chances of going through, the Sky Blues aren't on edge.

"In some ways there is no pressure on us, we have the chance to enjoy ourselves and get the outcome we need," he added. "Inside the club we believe strongly we're still in a good position to make progress."

Sydney FC are 13/2 to beat Kashima, who are 4/9 with the draw 10/3. Meanwhile, the Sky Blues are 12121/1 to win the A-League Grand Final.

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