SMH - The best is yet to come from Reza Ghoochannejhad, but Sydney FC's Iranian star is confident he will make a goalscoring impact for the team when the stakes are the highest.
The club's prized January recruit, Ghoochannejhad is yet to truly hit his straps for the Sky Blues. The 31-year-old has scored only one goal from nine appearances across all competitions, and has been overlooked for a start by coach Steve Corica in three of their last four matches.
But with Sydney's three biggest matches of the season in the next week and a half, the man known as 'Gucci' is aware that his time to shine is now. Brought in on loan from Cypriot giants APOEL, part of the appeal for the Sky Blues was Ghoochannejhad's status as an Asian player, which meant he could be included in their AFC Champions League squad without having to squeeze out another foreign player.
Sydney's continental hopes go on the line on Wednesday night in a must-win clash with star-studded Shanghai SIPG at Nestrata Jubilee Stadium, and there is no more opportune moment for Ghoochannejhad to show Sydney FC fans exactly what he's capable of.
"At the end of the day, I just want to play and score goals because that's what I'm here for," he told the Herald. "Of course when you arrive to a new team you need some time to adjust.
"It's not always easy, especially in January, because you have to get to know the players, the staff, the system – everything. But I'm ready, whenever the coach needs me –whether it's in the Champions League or the A-League, I just want to play and be important for the team. We'll see on Wednesday but I'm very excited, delighted and eager to play."
Shanghai SIPG, the reigning Chinese champions, boast by far the most high-profile foreign legion the Sky Blues will confront in Group H. Captained by Brazilian star Hulk, their squad also includes prolific striker Elkeson, former Chelsea midfielder Oscar and Uzbekistan international Odil Ahmedov, who was part of the team that pushed the Socceroos all the way to a penalty shootout in the Asian Cup round of 16.
But Ghoochannejhad said Sydney FC would go into the clash undaunted, and with a steely determination to "set things straight" in Asia after failing to win either of their first two matches. "They have big names, of course. But big names don't decide the game. It's a team effort that gets you the win," he said.
After an "extra sweet" win over Melbourne Victory in Saturday night's Big Blue, Ghoochannejhad said Sydney FC would go into the clash brimming with confidence – as well as the crucial A-League matches against Western Sydney and Perth Glory that follow.
Glory's 3-0 win over Central Coast on Sunday means they only need one more point to stitch up the Premiers' Plate – but until it's mathematically impossible for the Sky Blues to finish top, they won't be giving up hope.
"You never know, it's football – Perth might slip up the next game and then we have Perth at home," Ghoochannejhad said. "There are many scenarios possible at the moment. What we do is focus on our own game and our own plan and we'll see after that what happens."