Brett Emerton is hopeful Jason Culina will play for Sydney FC this A-League season as the injury-plagued Australia midfielder continues to impress in his quest for a contract.
Culina, who is on the comeback trail from a career-threatening knee injury, was put through his paces in a one-on-one session on Tuesday which included ball work and some intense stretching.
The 32-year-old Socceroos veteran has been training with the club for more than four months.
Veteran midfielder Emerton has been impressed with what he's seen on the training paddock from his former international team-mate Culina, who hasn't played competitively since breaking down with a knee injury at the Asian Cup in January last year.
He started training again with Newcastle Jets in last year's A-League pre-season before breaking down again and was controversially released by the club.
"Jason has made tremendous progress over the last couple of months and he's starting to join in our training sessions," Emerton said on Tuesday.
"He's looking good and we're all hopeful that he gets back fit and can join us at some stage because when he is fully fit he's obviously a fantastic player and will be a great addition to our squad."
Emerton is expecting a physical confrontation against Newcastle when Sydney plays the Jets, who boast former England striker Emile Heskey, at Allianz Stadium on Saturday.
Both sides are coming off disappointing season-opening matches with Sydney falling 2-0 to Wellington Phoenix while the Jets were beaten by the same scoreline at home to Adelaide United.
"They're going to be desperate to get some points on the board as well," Emerton said.
"There's no bad teams in the A-League this year, everyone's tough and unless you're up to the task 100 per cent you're not going to win football matches."
Emerton admitted Sydney let itself down against Wellington with a poor attacking display and attitude.
"We gave the ball away far too easy and we found ourselves chasing it much too often," he said.
"I think as far as the team is concerned they were physically up to the task better than we were on Saturday.
"We're going to make sure that changes against Newcastle."