In-form Perth Glory striker Billy Mehmet has two ambitions against Sydney FC on Sunday – to keep up his goalscoring form and help prevent marquee magician Alessandro Del Piero adding to his tally.
Both men have struck twice this season, and joint A-League leader Perth is already formulating plans to counter the pervading menace of the 37-year-old World Cup winner at ANZ Stadium.
“It’s going to be about getting in his face and trying to stop him from playing his normal game, which we know isn’t going to be easy,” said Mehmet, who notched Perth’s clincher in Sunday’s 2-0 win over an out-run Melbourne Heart at nib Stadium.
“It’s going to be a fine balancing act though because the last thing we’ll want to do is to give away free kicks in dangerous areas against Sydney, because we know how deadly Del Piero can be in those situations as he showed against Newcastle.
“He’ll float around and go where he wants and we won’t be putting a single man on him, it will be more a case of a team effort in closing him down where we can whether he’s dropped deep or is up top.
“Stopping him is a big ask though because we’re talking about somebody who has been there and won everything and is still a top class player who hasn’t lost any hunger or desire in his game.
“But if we can limit his impact on the game then we will be happy with that and worry about our own game and taking the chances that come our way.”
With New Zealand international hit-man Shane Smeltz still struggling with the hamstring injury that ruled him out against Heart, it’s almost certain that Mehmet, who scored the winner off the bench in the season opener against Brisbane Roar, will again link with Scotsman Steve McGarry to provide the attacking threat for Perth.
“We know it’s going to be between the three of us for the two starting spots this season and hopefully with my goals I’ve made some sort of statement,” added the Irishman.
“All I can do is keep scoring, if possible. That’s what you get judged on as striker and I am happy with my start to the season.”
However Mehmet is less happy with Perth once again being labelled by critics as a team which too often resorts to the rough stuff to stifle opponents.
“In football you have to win the fight first to be able to then go out and play the football you want, and we don’t apologise for that,” he countered.
“If you are not up for a physical challenge then other teams will take advantage of that and will bully you out of games.
“We do have that aspect in our locker but that doesn’t mean we can’t get the ball on the ground and play some creative stuff.
“You don’t get to a grand final if you can’t do that. Sometimes clubs get labelled a certain way.
“It was the same when I was at St Mirren in Scotland where we were always described as a big strong team, no matter what.”
Mehmet insists that in Republic of Ireland international Liam Miller – whose club resume includes Celtic, Manchester and Leeds – Glory possesses a master of invention.
“For me, he’s one of the best players in the A-League,” he insisted. “His passing, his vision and his technique are top notch and we are lucky to have him.
“We are a team that has a bit of everything, whether it’s physical players or flair players. We can play it long if we have to but we can also get the ball down and play a bit on the floor too.”
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