Macarthur FC's Mile Sterjovski and Ivan Vujica at the pre-match press conference ahead of the game against Phnom Penh Crown. Photo Credit: Poletti/The Inner Sanctum

After a stoppage time victory over Western United, Macarthur FC return to Campbelltown for its must-win AFC Cup game against Phnom Penh Crown FC on Match Day 4.

Macarthur coach Mile Sterjovski knows what is at stake, and he is focused on making sure the team plays the right way.

“For me the performance is most important,” Sterjovski said.

“I think if we focus on the process and how we play I’m sure we’ll get the result we deserve.”

The Bulls lost 3-0 to the Cambodian side two weeks ago in Cambodia, and Sterjovski acknowledged it was a difficult trip for the A-League Men side.

“The trip away was a difficult one for us, with the flights and the conditions. I think we did okay and we learnt how they played.

“We know they’re a difficult team, but we’re at home tomorrow night. 

“We’re looking at putting in a good performance. I can see that the players are very hungry and training has been great this week.”

Phnom Penh have yet to concede a goal in the AFC Cup, and Sterjovski says it is nice to be reminded of that.

“It’s actually nice to hear that because I think it’s challenging for the players.

“We want to be the team that does score against them and I’m confident that we will. 

“We’re determined. We’re performing well in training and everybody is up for this match.”

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Macarthur have had a very busy start to its 2023/24 campaign, with Thursday’s game against Phnom Penh marking the fifth game in 20 days, including that grueling away trip to Cambodia.

One of the ways Sterjovski has dealt with the schedule is rotating the squad, and defender Ivan Vujica recognises the importance of it, even if it is out of his control.

“As a player, I always put my hand up to be ready for any and every game,” Vujica said.

“That’s my role as a player, to be ready for the coach.

“But ultimately the boss decides. He’s the one that chooses who will play and us as players are there to fulfill his duty.

“As players, we have good chemistry all around the playing group. So regardless of who I’m playing next to or what not, I have full confidence and belief in it.”

A factor which makes the squad rotation easier is the mix of talented veteran and youngsters in the squad, which Vujica says is “a very fulfilling feeling.”

“It’s a great pleasure knowing that anytime, anywhere, a player can come into a position.

“As a player, and as a team, that’s a great feeling regardless of the age or the experience, that you can have full belief in the person next to you.”

Vujica did not make the trip to Cambodia, and while not playing was not an enjoyable feeling for him, he focused on performing his role as best as he could.

“As a player, you never like or enjoy watching your team play.

“As I touched on before, it’s the boss’s call. Whatever he says, goes. As a player, I’m there to fulfill that duty.

“So my duty at that time was to be here in Sydney and to recover and to train hard and to prepare myself as best as I can for Central Coast.

“Ultimately, regardless of how I was feeling, what I was feeling, I had to stay at task, and prepare myself for the Central Coast game. 

“I think it’s safe to say the boys did that in great manner considering we got the victory after that.”

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