FFA Cup: City face tough task in Sydney while Heidelberg look to shrug off sadness

Melbourne City faces a stiff challenge as it seeks to defend its FFA Cup title with an away quarter-final against A-League champions Sydney FC on Wednesday night.

At the same time, second-tier Melbourne team Heidelberg United will look to make FFA Cup history by dumping former A-league title winners Adelaide United out of the competition at the same stage at their Olympic Village ground.

George Katsakis, Heidelberg's coach, has had to work hard to lift his players' morale after they were rocked by the death of an admired board member, Peter Loukakos, on Sunday morning, just hours before the players had to face Bentleigh Greens in the NPL Victoria grand final.

That had an impact on the players and the coaching staff, and their sadness was compounded by the result of the title decider, which they lost 2-1 after extra time.

It's a huge task for part-time players at Heidelberg to front up three days later for a sudden-death cup tie against the professionals of Adelaide, and coach George Katsakis is fully aware that their ability to compete in such a big game is compromised by the scheduling.

He wanted the FFA to put on the Heidelberg- Adelaide game next Wednesday (when the other two quarter finals are being staged), particularly as his club faces further fixture congestion when the Bergers fly to Perth at the weekend to take on Bayswater City in the NPL Champions Series.

"It's certainly not ideal and it will affect the way we have to approach this game," Katsakis said on Tuesday.

"It's not making it any easier for grassroots teams to show themselves off to best effect against A-League opposition.

"I will have to make up to five changes from the team that started in the grand final because of fatigue, squad rotation and trying to keep players fresh bearing in mind that we have another game on Sunday."

It certainly promises to be a night of high emotion at Heidelberg's Olympic Village ground as the club will honour the memory of 51-year-old Loukakos.

"He was at the club the night before the grand final, he went for a coffee with our team manager. He went home and planned to meet back at the ground at 9.30 am (Sunday) and then we got a call saying he had had a massive cardiac arrest," Katsakis said.

"It was hard for the boys and for me but I know the way these boys bounce back. They are resilient, they will fight back, but at any level if you are playing three games in seven days it's terribly hard."

For City's new boss Warren Joyce the cup tie against the Sky Blues is a real chance to gauge the progress he has made with his players since he took over in mid-June.

And it couldn't be a bigger reality check a month before the start of the season than an assignment against the team City beat in last season's cup final. While City faded out of title contention afterwards, Sydney lost only two matches all season before winning the grand final in a penalty shootout against Melbourne Victory.

"We are trying to to be the best that we can be and make sure that we are competitive. You look forward to the opportunity to play against the best and a successful established manager," Joyce said on Tuesday.

"It's just another part of the build up to the season. They have got a set way of playing that's been successful, they have talented players, they are well drilled, experienced, players who know their jobs and can handle the challenge."

City also announced the signing of veteran former Adelaide midfielder Marcelo Carrusca, who could be in line to play some sort of role in Wednesday night's game.

The story FFA Cup: City face tough task in Sydney while Heidelberg look to shrug off sadness first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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