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VITEZSLAV LAVICKA...Won't be fooled again?
SYDNEY FC coach Vitezslav Lavicka said his side has learnt its lessons from the last horrorshow against Melbourne Heart - and are ready to turn the tables to secure a spot in the finals.
The Sky Blues head to AAMI Park for Saturday night's clash with Heart, currently sitting just outside the top six, but still very much in the hunt for a finals berth, only one point behind both Heart in fifth and Newcastle Jets in sixth.
With a final round clash against the Jets still to come in Sydney, the Sky Blues have their finals destiny in their own hands with two victories ensuring their playoff spot.
The first part of their mission comes against Heart, a side they have never beaten and who inflicted an embarrassing 4-0 home defeat on them in December.
"Please don't remind me," Lavicka said. "We know they have quality. They play good quality football, especially if they have time and space to play quick counter.
"We watched how we played them last time in Sydney and we were destroyed by them. But every game is different, a new challenge is coming, a new game is coming and we all believe.
"We have a clear goal to reach the finals and this is an important step to do it."
Lavicka said last weekend's win over the Melbourne Victory, in which they totally dominated their fierce rivals, had given his side a huge confidence boost heading into the defining fortnight of their season.
"We all know our current situation," Lavicka said. "But after we beat Victory, the boys had a good performance that match and we picked up the three points and now we are more confident.
"We know another tough game is coming this week, but they need to pick up the points as well.
"It's going to be a very exciting game for both sides and a very important game for both sides."
Sydney will be without midfielder Karol Kisel through suspension. Lavicka is still to decide who will take his place, with either Terry Antonis or Hiro Moriyasu likely to come in.
One player who will definitely be there is midfielder Nick Carle, who believes the Sky Blues are finding their best form at just the right time of the season.
Carle, the only Sydney player to ever score against Heart, said the big occasion will bring out the best in the team.
"We saw on the weekend it was a must-win game and I thought it was one of our best performances," the Socceroos midfielder said.
"Everyone talked about how bad Melbourne was but I think we had a lot to do with that."
"It was one of the best performances we've had. We knew how big the game was, it was a must-win, and I think we've showed it all year.
"When it's been a big game, we've come up trumps and hopefully we can keep it going. I think the form we've been in can really take us a long way."
Sydney today denied former Melbourne Victory coach Ernie Merrick was in the running to replace Lavicka at the club next season. Media reports claimed Merrick - currently coaching Hong Kong - had made the shortlist of final candidates for the coaching hotseat. But the club today tweeted: "Contrary to a report in the media, Ernie Merrick will not be coaching @SydneyFC. SFC has a clear coach/player direction that will be followed."