Defending champions Melbourne Victory remain the team to beat as the A-League returns for an 11th season this week.
Victory kick off their 2015-16 campaign at rivals Adelaide United on Friday, a day after Western Sydney Wanderers open the season against Brisbane Roar.
Kevin Muscat’s men were a class above last term, claiming a third championship with a 3-0 victory over Sydney FC in May’s grand final.
Victory are being tipped to go back-to-back this season, even without captain and Australia international Mark Milligan.
Milligan departed for Baniyas in the United Arab Emirates following the A-League grand final.
Favouritism is down to the club’s shrewd recruitment of Socceroos midfielder Oliver Bozanic, as well as goalkeeper Danny Vukovic and former Swansea City youngster Giancarlo Gallifuoco.
Sydney are expected to mount another challenge for the title under Graham Arnold.
The two-time champions finished second in the standings last season before they were swept aside by Victory five months ago.
Mickael Tavares and Sydney, however, are using that forgettable day in Melbourne as motivation ahead of their season opener against Melbourne City on Saturday.
“As soon as we finished that game, I moved on,” the Senegalese midfielder said. “For sure, we are motivated to win the championship this season, but it’s not like I spent the whole of my holidays thinking about that game.
“No, we did great in the second half of the season but on the day Melbourne were better than us, they deserved to win the game. We won’t forget the game, it’s part of our motivation of course, but it is not the main thing to think about.”
City – bankrolled by the City Football Group – are seen as title contenders, following the arrivals of Socceroos duo Ivan Franjic and Michael Zullo.
Former Premier League goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen has been coaxed out of retirement to join the club, while Northern Ireland international Aaron Hughes is also on the books this year.
Saturday’s only other fixtures sees Central Coast Mariners host Perth Glory.
The Glory will be desperate to bounce back after last season’s expulsion from the finals for breaching the competition’s salary cap.
Wellington Phoenix and last season’s cellar-dwellers Newcastle Jets close out the opening round on Sunday.
The Jets are to be led by 34-year-old Scott Miller, the youngest coach in A-League history.
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