Preview: Newcastle v Melbourne
Melbourne begins 2010 looking to re-establish itself at the top of the Hyundai A-League table when it travels to Newcastle to take on the resurgent Jets.
Date: Sunday January 10 Kick-off: 5:00pm AEDT Venue: EnergyAustralia Stadium, Newcastle
Head-to-head 14 Hyundai A-League meetings: Wins: Newcastle 7, Melbourne 4, Draws: 3
Previous Meeting Newcastle Jets 1, Melbourne Victory 3, EnergyAustralia Stadium, October 2009
Past five matches: Newcastle Jets: Round 16: Sydney FC 1, Newcastle Jets 3, Sydney Football Stadium Round 17: Adelaide United 0, Newcastle Jets 2, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 18: Newcastle Jets 3, Gold Coast United 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 20: Newcastle Jets 3, North Queensland 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 21: Perth Glory 4, Newcastle Jets 0, ME Bank Stadium
Melbourne Victory: Round 16: Melbourne Victory 4, Gold Coast United 0, Etihad Stadium Round 17: Wellington Phoenix 1, Melbourne Victory 1, Westpac Stadium Round 18: Central Coast Mariners 0, Melbourne Victory 3, Bluetongue Stadium Round 20: Melbourne Victory 0, Sydney FC 0, Etihad Stadium Round 21: North Queensland Fury 1, Melbourne Victory 0, Dairy Farmers Stadium
Analysis: Melbourne begins 2010 looking to re-establish itself at the top of the Hyundai A-League table when it travels to Newcastle to take on the resurgent Jets.
The teams have already met on two occasions this season and while Newcastle was able to snatch a point with a late equaliser in the first match at Etihad Stadium, it was Melbourne which came from behind in the most recent match at EnergyAustralia Stadium.
The Jets led 1-0 early but three second-half goals from Tom Pondeljak, Archie Thompson and Carlos Hernandez secured Victory's first win in Newcastle for over three years.
Hernandez was the most influential player on the park that day, setting up the first two goals before getting on the scoresheet himself. He returns from injury for this match having missed the 1-0 loss to North Queensland after receiving a knock to the ankle against Sydney.
Players and coaches alike were very disappointed with the effort in Townsville, with defender Rody Vargas describing it as one of the worst of the season. Dyron Daal scored the only goal of the game, while Melbourne never really looked in the contest.
But having had two weeks to reflect on that performance, Victory comes into this match with a few more options in the midfield. As well as Hernandez, Leigh Broxham returns from suspension while Marvin Angulo, another dynamic Costa Rican, has finally got his clearance and could make his debut. Mate Dugandzic has been included and Grant Brebner has had two weeks to get fully fit after playing only a half against the Fury.
Thompson and Matthew Kemp return from the Middle East where they both played for the Qantas Socceroos and they are expected to take their spots in the starting XI.
Sydney sits three points clear of Melbourne on the table heading into 2010, but has played a game extra and faces a long road trip to Perth this week. A win in Newcastle could see Victory back on top heading into a run of three home matches in 10 days.
But Newcastle will be no pushover. The Jets have been one of the most improved teams in the competition this year and it's clear that Branko Culina is starting to have an influence on them having only taken over the job six weeks prior to the season. Four consecutive wins in the lead-up to Christmas saw them charge up to the table and while they lost 4-0 in Perth in their most recent match, they still sit fourth.
Experienced campaigner Michael Bridges was influential in the Jets' return to form and comes back in for this match along with defender Angelo Costanzo. However, the club's marquee player Fabio Vignaroli is out indefinitely with knee injury and the Jets will have a hard time covering for him.
The heavy defeat in Perth was the result of a sluggish first half, with the Glory putting three past the Jets in the first 45 minutes. For Culina, it was a return to the inconsistency which dogged the club earlier in the year and if the 2007/08 champions want to be a finals challenger this season, they need to get that out of their game.
With both sides coming off less than ideal ends to 2009, there will be plenty of willingness in this encounter. Melbourne, which has won seven of 10 away matches this season, has been on the end of a couple of big losses in Newcastle over the years, but the win in October will have it feeling confident it can return with all three points and put some real pressure on Sydney in the race for the Premiers' Plate.
Newcastle Jets squad: 1. Ben KENNEDY (gk), 2. Angelo COSTANZO, 3. Adam D-APUZZO, 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 5. Ljubo MILICEVIC, 6. Ben KANTAROVSKI, 7. Jin-Hyung SONG, 8. Matt THOMPSON (c), 9. Sasho PETROVSKI, 11. Tarek ELRICH, 12. Jobe WHEELHOUSE, 14. Michael BRIDGES, 15. Sean ROONEY, 20. Neil YOUNG (gk), 22. Kaz PATAFTA, 25. Labinot HALITI, 26. Ali ABBAS *two to be omitted*
In: Angelo COSTANZO (promoted), Michael BRIDGES (returns from injury)
Unavailable: Shaun ONTONG (Achilles - indefinite), Jason HOFFMAN (calf - 1 week), Fabio VIGNAROLI (knee - indefinite), Marko JESIC (knee - indefinite)
Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (c), 3.Mate DUGANDZIC, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 13.Nathan ELASI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Matthew FOSCHINI, 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 21.Robbie KRUSE, 22.Nick WARD, 23.Adrian LEIJER, 24.Luke PILKINGTON, 26.Marvin ANGULO *Three to be omitted*
In: Marvin ANGULO (promoted), Leigh BROXHAM (return from suspension), Mate DUGANDZIC (promoted), Carlos HERNANDEZ (return from injury)
Out: Sutee SUKSOMKIT (end of guest contract)
Unavailable: Evan BERGER (hamstring, 1 week), Billy CELESKI (knee, season), Steven PACE (abdomen, indefinite), Surat SUKHA (hamstring, 2 weeks)