Phoenix captain Andrew Durante has questioned the legitimacy of Sydney FC's form revival ahead of tonight's crucial A-League encounter at the Sydney Football Stadium.
Sydney have won their last two games against Perth and Adelaide and another victory tonight would draw them level with the fourth-placed Phoenix on 33 points.
The Phoenix's own winning streak of four games was brought to a shuddering halt by Brisbane and Central Coast and they now face an almighty scrap for a playoff spot.
But Durante, who along with Tim Brown missed the Mariners match, insisted that confidence remained high and instead threw all sorts of question marks back at Sydney, for whom he played five games in a guest stint during last year's Asian Champions League.
"They've won their last two, and obviously in terms of points that's been fantastic for them," Durante said after a week of preparations in the Bondi Beach heat.
"But against Adelaide I didn't think they were fantastic at all. Adelaide probably should have won that game, they hit the crossbar and the Sydney keeper made a number of outstanding saves.
"So although they've got the points, and credit to them, we're not going to be afraid and it's probably a good time to get them.
"They might be a little over confident and us coming off two losses, we're going to be desperate to win this game," he continued.
"It sets the scene for a really good game and you'll see a really fired up Phoenix."
Phoenix players were genuinely upset after their flat effort in Gosford and the return of Durante and Brown will shore up the spine of their starting XI.
Brent Griffiths makes way for Durante at centre back, Manny Muscat reverts to right back and Vince Lia squeezes out Alex Smith in central midfield.
"With myself and Tim Brown missing, there was a little bit of instability in the squad and I guess the leadership on the field was probably lacking a bit," Durante said.
"We got up to second place at one stage, with Manny at right back and myself and Browny there. Psychologically we'll go into this game more at ease and a lot more secure."
The Phoenix have already beaten Sydney twice this season at Westpac Stadium and if Lia and Brown can do a job on Socceroos playmaker Nick Carle then they have the ability to make a mockery of the bookmakers' odds.
Paul Ifill has taken a liking to the Sky Blues having put two goals past them in this campaign and should get better service tonight from fullbacks Muscat and Tony Lochhead.
"No-one likes using the must-win phrase but it is like that," Durante said.
"We don't want to lose three in a row, we need to get out of this mini slump. A win would be huge for us and I think all the boys realise how important this is.
Phoenix: Mark Paston, Manny Muscat, Ben Sigmund, Andrew Durante, Tony Lochhead, Leo Bertos, Vince Lia, Tim Brown, Dani Sanchez, Chris Greenacre, Paul Ifill. Bench: Tony Warner, Alex Smith, Nick Ward, Mirjan Pavlovic.
Sydney: Ivan Necevski, Scott Jamieson, Pascal Bosschaart, Michael Beauchamp, Rhyan Grant, Terry McFlynn, Terry Antonis, Hirofumi Moriyasu, Brett Emerton, Nick Carle, Bruno Cazarine, Liam Reddy, Jamie Coyne, Shannon Cole, Joel Chianese, Mitch Mallia, Juho Makela, Sebastian Ryall