Wednesday night's clash between Wollongong and Sydney FC may be labelled a friendly, but for Wolves coach Luke Wilkshire and his team, there is nothing friendly about the encounter.
The match at WIN Stadium comes at a crucial time for Wollongong, the fixture helping the Wolves prepare for next Wednesday night's NSW Men's National Premier League grand final qualifier at the same venue.
But it also serves as a major opportunity for the team's stars to press their claims for elevation to the A-League in the coming years.
For Wilkshire, there's one way to ensure his team is able to achieve both those goals. Win.
Coming up against the current A-League champions, Wilkshire knows his side faces a difficult task, but he also knows how much talent lies within the squad.
"It's a great opportunity," Wilkshire said. "It will be a good measuring stick for the players on the quality we have in the squad, beyond the NPL level.
"The match is ideally timed for us, we have a one week lead in to the semi-final and what better way to prepare than to play against the A-League champions. It's another great game for us and I'm excited to see what will unfold because I believe this team is good enough to match up against them."
The Wolves are preparing to host a determined Sydney FC on Wednesday night, the Sky Blues looking to bounce back from a shock 2-0 loss to Brisbane in last week's FFA Cup round of 32 clash.
The match came on the back of a trip to China, in which Sydney FC were defeated by French giants Paris Saint-Germain.
Having lost their last two matches, Serbian star Milos Ninkovic, declared the side will arrive in Wollongong determined to secure a vital pre-season victory.
"The loss was a big shock for everyone," Ninkovic said. "But at the same time, it's a good wake-up call, now we have two months to work hard and prepare for the A-League.
"This may be a friendly, but we want to be better every game and after last week, we want to put in a good performance and win the game.
"Wollongong have some very good players up front, I came down to watch some games, Thomas James, the Japanese player Takeru and of course Lachlan Scott who played for Western Sydney. They have a very good team, so it will be a good test for us."
Having delivered such an impressive season, a number of Wolves players, including Thomas James, have received interest from A-League clubs in recent weeks.
Wilkshire firmly believes multiple players within his squad could walk into the A-League right now and thrive at the elite level and former Wanderer Lachlan Scott said Wednesday's match is a big opportunity for the side to display their talents on the national stage.
"It's a big chance for some of the boys who have been playing so well to prove themselves," Scott said.
"Because we've got such a young squad, this match gives them a chance to get out there in front of an A-League team and see what they're made of, see that they can compete and maybe even give them a run for their money.
"My goal personally is definitely to get back up to the A-League, this match is one way to do it. Obviously, also playing week in, week out, continuously improving and scoring in the league is also how I'm going to do that."
Wollongong Wolves v Sydney FC
Kickoff: 7pm, Wednesday August 14, WIN Stadium.
Tickets: Discounts apply for online purchases. Adults $15.24, Children $5.05, Concession, Families $30.48. Tickets available from Ticketmaster.
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