Hyundai A-League preview: Jets v Phoenix
Man of the moment Blake Powell and his Wellington outfit will look to build on their drought-breaking upset win last weekend, but it promises to be a tricky assignment in Newcastle against a Jets outfit showing some late-season fight.
Saturday, 20 February 2016
Hunter Stadium, Newcastle
Kick-Off: 5:15 PM (Local) (5:15 PM (AEDT))
TV Broadcast: Live coverage on FOX SPORTS 505 from 5.00pm (AEDT) and Sky Sport 3 (New Zealand)
Radio Broadcast: 1233 ABC Newcastle, Grandstand Digital, Online & via the ABC Radio Mobile App – A-league Live
Join the conversation on Twitter using the hash-tag #NEWvWEL
To purchase tickets visit www.aleague.com.au/tickets
Newcastle Jets squad: 1.Mark BIRIGHITTI (Gk), 2.Daniel MULLEN, 3.Jason HOFFMAN, 4.Nigel BOOGAARD (c), 6.Cameron WATSON, 7.Enver ALIVODIC, 9.Milos TRIFUNOVIC, 10.LEONARDO, 14.Mitch COOPER, 16.Steven UGARKOVIC, 17.Radovan PAVICEVIC, 19.Morten NORDSTRAND, 20.Ben KENNEDY (Gk), 22.Lachlan JACKSON, 24.Nicholas COWBURN, 25.Brandon LUNDY, 27.Braedyn CROWLEY, 28.Ryan KITTO
**two to be omitted**
Ins: 6.Cameron WATSON, 25.Brandon LUNDY, 27.Braedyn CROWLEY, 28.Ryan KITTO (all promoted)
Outs: 5.Ben KANTAROVSKI (suspended – 1 match), 8.Mateo POLJAK (suspended – 1 match)
Unavailable: 11.Labinot HALITI (knee – season)
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Glen MOSS (GK), 2.Manny MUSCAT, 4.Roly BONEVACIA, 6.Dylan FOX, 10.Michael MCGLINCHEY, 11.Kwabena APPIAH, 12.Blake POWELL, 13.Albert RIERA, 15.James MCGARRY, 16.Louis FENTON, 18.Ben SIGMUND, 19.Tom DOYLE, 20.Lewis ITALIANO (GK), 22.Andrew DURANTE (c), 23.Matthew RIDENTON, 26.Hamish WATSON
Ins: 15.James McGARRY (promoted), 18.Ben SIGMUND (returns from injury)
Outs: 5.Troy DANASKOS (omitted), Joel STEVENS (omitted)
Unavailable: 8.Alex RODRIGUEZ (knee – 1-2 weeks), 14.Alex RUFER (broken leg – season), 17.Vince Lia (knee – 2-3 weeks), 21.Roy KRISHNA (ankle – 10-12 weeks)
Referee: Chris Beath
Assistant Referee 1: Anton Shchetinin
Assistant Referee 2: Lance Greenshields
Fourth Official: Trent Nash
Both these sides kept their faint finals hopes alive with positive results last weekend but a loss here would all but extinguish their chances of making the six.
That should ensure there’s a bit of extra feeling to what should already be an intriguing contest in the Hunter.
The Jets are eighth after a win and draw over the last fortnight, including holding league-leaders Brisbane Roar to a well-deserved 2-2 draw last Friday.
Phoenix is just a point behind following their incredible 5-2 win at Wanderland on Sunday and can leapfrog Newcastle with a victory.
That performance and result was a timely reminder of just what the Nix can do when they get things right, especially in the front third.
The win snapped a nine-game winless run for Ernie Merrick’s side, who hasn’t triumphed in any of the last three matches between the two clubs.
Wellington was crushed 3-1 when the two sides met just last month but it will be interesting to see how much belief their demolition of the Wanderers has given the Kiwi club.
Jets boss Scott Miller will be forced into at least one change with midfielder Mateo Poljak suspended.
One candidate to replace him – Ben Kantarovski – is also banned for an accumulation of yellow cards, meaning Cam Watson should get the nod.
Defender Ben Sigmund has been named to make his return from a long lay-off for the Nix in excellent news. The form of youngster Dylan Fox means “Siggy” might have to be content with a spot on the bench.
*After a 2-1 win in their last home match against Melbourne City, Newcastle will be looking for consecutive home victories in the Hyundai A-League for the first time in almost two years (22/03/14).
*Wellington Phoenix makes 64.3% of their passes in opposition territory, by far the most of any team this Hyundai A-League season, while Newcastle makes the least (50.9%).
*Having netted two goals in each of their last two Hyundai A-League fixtures, Newcastle is on the cusp of a third straight game of multiple goals for the first time since November 2013.
*The Phoenix has won only one of their last four Hyundai A-League matches immediately following a match in which they scored five or more goals.
ROUTE TO GOAL
These two have struggled in front of goal all season but the floodgates opened last weekend which augurs well for this clash.
While the Jets have only managed 17 form their 19 games, they have netted twice in each of the last two encounters.
It’s not just the goal return which has caught the eye but Newcastle seems to be playing with a renewed verve and confidence going forward.
It’s coincided with a concerted run of games for Brazilian import Leonardo, who appears to have overcome his injury niggles, while Alivodic and Mitch Cooper are also contributing.
And you can’t forget Trifunivic. The big Serbian has scored three in the last two games to take his tally for the season to nine. An impressive return for his maiden A-League season.
But no one was as impressive as Wellington’s Blake Powell last weekend.
The ex-Sydney FC man had a day to remember scoring four times, joining a pretty exclusive club to achieve that milestone.
Powell’s movement was the feature of his performance, constantly getting in behind and in between defenders.
Still, you need the right service and he got that with Michael McGlinchey, Matthew Ridenton and Tom Doyle particularly impressive.
Phoenix will no doubt look to employ similar tactics again, using the size and power of Hamish Watson to put the Jets defence on the back foot, allowing McGlinchey, Powell and Bonevacia a bit more space to thrive.
The feisty midfield battle with be another interesting sub-plot to determine which side comes out on top.
WHO’S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?
Blake Powell. When you score four goals in one match – against a side neck-deep in the Premiership race – you’re sure to gain plenty of attention. Powell’s exquisite finishing not only won him a place in the official www.a-league.com.au Team of the Week for Round 19, but also alongside some worldwide superstars in the EA SPORTS' FIFA global team of the week. Oh and he's just signed a contract extension! Not a bad time to be Blake Powell.
PREDICTIONNewcastle Jets 2-1 Wellington Phoenix