Sydney FC star Brett Emerton insists he's aiming to be fit for Australia's World Cup qualifier against Iraq in October, as well as the the A-League's inaugural Sydney derby four days later.
Emerton says he's paid close attention to Western Sydney's fledgling A-League squad, admiting a rivalry has already developed between the two sides.
The sidelined Socceroos midfielder, one of the region's finest football products, said he has been impressed by the work of former team-mate and Wanderers coach Tony Popovic.
"As footballers, we're interested in the game, so we pay close attention to what they're doing," Emerton said.
"Obviously, we've never played before but, already, there's that rivalry.
"I won't talk too much about it (their recruits). But they'll definitely be competitive.
"I think they've signed some quality, experienced players, who will do well for them.
"If we're going to beat them this year, we're going to have to be at our best."
October 20 has been set for the inaugural Sydney derby, but it's a fixture four days before which Emerton is striving towards.
The 33-year-old former Blackburn Rovers player underwent ankle surgery shortly after the end of the last A-League season and Australia's World Cup qualifier against Iraq on October 16 has long been on his mind.
"From day one, that was the target I set myself, to be back, hopefully, in the national team from October," he said.
"Our season obviously starts early October, so I'll be back playing games and hopefully fully fit."
Emerton is running freely, and is hoping his surgeon will give him the green light later this week to start changing direction and jumping.
"That puts me about a month away from hopefully joining in with the boys at training.
"The ankle feels great. If anything, I think I'm ahead of schedule.
"I didn't expect it to feel this good this early, so I'm very happy with the way things have gone.
"It's always frustrating (being injured), but it couldn't really come at a better time obviously with such a long off-season."
There has been speculation new Sky Blues coach Ian Crook will return Emerton to the right-back role he played at Blackburn.
Crook said he's undecided.
"At the moment, I have ideas," Crook said.
"I'd be stupid to not say that Emmo can play as a right back, as a right winger or he can probably play central.
"In saying that, we just have to find somewhere that's good for both us as a team and Brett as an individual."
Emerton is yet to discuss with Crook what he'll be tasked with in the 2012/13 season.
"He's just asked me to look on at training, and look at my fellow team-mates and see what their strengths and weaknesses are," he said.
"Wherever I fit into the team, as always, I'll do the job."
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