Hyundai A-League preview: Phoenix v Jets

Nathan Burns might be gone, but there’s still quality on the Phoenix roster as they seek to build on last season’s fourth-place finish. Can the Jets under new coach Scott Miller spoil the Phoenix’s opening weekend party?

MATCH DETAILS

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Wellington Phoenix v Newcastle Jets

Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Kick-Off: 7:00 PM (Local) (5:00 PM (AEDT))

Referee: Shaun Evans

Assistant Referee 1: Mark Rule

Assistant Referee 2: George Lakrindis

Fourth Official: Jonathan Barreiro

TV Broadcast: Live coverage on FOX SPORTS 505 from 5.00pm (AEDT) and Sky Sport 2 (New Zealand)

Radio Broadcast: 1233 ABC Newcastle & via the ABC Radio Mobile App – A-league Live. Radio Sport FM (New Zealand)

Join the conversation on Twitter using the hash-tag #WELvNEW

To purchase tickets visit www.aleague.com.au/tickets

Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Glen MOSS (GK), 2.Manny MUSCAT, 3.Justin GULLEY, 4.Roly BONEVACIA, 7.Jeffrey SARPONG, 8.Alex RODRIGUEZ, 10.Michael MCGLINCHEY, 11.Kwabena APPIAH, 12.Blake POWELL, 13.Albert RIERA, 16.Louis FENTON, 17.Vince LIA, 18.Ben SIGMUND, 19.Tom DOYLE, 20.Lewis ITALIANO (GK), 21, Roy KRISHNA, 22.Andrew DURANTE (c), 23.Matthew RIDENTON

Blake Powell is eager to impress for his new club Wellington Phoenix.

***Two to be omitted***

Ins: nil

Outs: nil

Unavailable: nil

Newcastle Jets squad: 1.Mark BIRIGHITTI (GK), 2.Daniel MULLEN, 3.Jason HOFFMAN, 4.Nigel BOOGAARD (C), 5.Ben KANTAROVSKI, 6.Cameron WATSON, 7.Enver ALIVODIC, 8.Mateo POLJAK, 9.Milos TRIFUNOVIC (pending New Zealand visa), 10.LEONARDO, 11.Labinot HALITI, 12.Andy BRENNAN, 13.LEE Ki-je, 14.Mitch COOPER, 15.Themba MUATA-MARLOW, 20.Ben KENNEDY (GK), 23.David CARNEY, 25.Brandon LUNDY

Nigel Boogaard

***Two to be omitted***

Ins: nil

Outs: nil

Unavailable: nil

BLUFFER’S GUIDE

The Phoenix bade farewell to Johnny Warren medallist Nathan Burns in the off-season, but are desperate to build on their achievements of the last campaign where they topped the A-League for three weeks and played some of the most eye-catching football in the history of the club.

Recruitment hasn’t been overly-vigorous in Wellington, with the arrival of Dutch/Ghanaian attacker Jeffrey Sarpong the most notable acquisition. Other than Burns, every member of last year’s best eleven are back for 2015/16.

Jeffrey Sarpong (Wellington Phoenix)

By contrast, there‘s been a clean-out in the Jets squad after a tumultuous 2014/15 season which ended with possession of the wooden spoon. Arriving though are highly experienced A-Leaguers Nigel Boogard, Mateo Poljak and Labinot Haliti who may just combine with the likes of a revitalised David Carney and some exciting new foreigners to make Newcastle a tougher nut to crack this season. 

New coach Scott Miller comes highly-regarded after seven years at Fulham.

OPTA DATA

·         There have been 23 goals scored in the last five A-League games between these two clubs (4.6 per game).

·         The Jets have mustered just 10 goals in their last 14 A-League away games.

·         Wellington have only won one of their previous eight A-League opening games to a season (W1 D4 L3). The win came in 2012/13 – a 2-0 win at home against Sydney FC.

·         Newcastle Jets have lost their last three opening games to an A-League season and failed to score in all three of those matches.

ROUTE TO GOAL

The burden of replacing Burns’s goals won’t fall on just one player in the Phoenix side.  Home fans will hope Ernie Merrick can work a similar transformation on new man Jeffrey Sarpong, but he’ll need time to reach full match fitness. 

Another step-up is also needed from Roy Krishna who was electric for the first half of last season before tailing off. The Phoenix need greater consistency this time around from their Fijian flier.

The Jets were the A-League’s lowest scorers in 2014/15, not even averaging a goal per game. They’ll pin their hopes this year on two new foreigners – exciting Brazilian Leonardo Santiago and well-travelled Serbian Milos Trifunovic. 

Leonardo (Newcastle Jets)

Ironically for a player who has plied his trade everywhere from China to Kazakhstan, Trifunovic has been sweating this week on the paperwork which will allow him to travel to New Zealand. If he does, there’ll be high interest in how the new duo performs in the Jets' attacking third.

WHO’S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?

Newcastle born and raised Nigel Boogaard, who was handed the Jets’ captaincy for the new season.

FORM LINES

It’s been a packed pre-season for Merrick’s men, with twelve games (plus two FFA Cup fixtures) against local and A-League sides, including 3-1 wins over Western Sydney and Sydney FC last month. In total, 33 goals were scored in those dozen games, with Krishna, Kwabena Appiah and Blake Powell all multiple goal-scorers.

By comparison, it’s been a fairly sparse off-season for Miller’s charges, with just four official matches. Three of those were against fellow A-League sides Brisbane, Central Coast and Melbourne City though, during which they conceded just a solitary goal, hinting at greater defensive stability from Boogaard and company. 

But goals were hard to come by, with just three in those four games, one from the penalty spot.

PREDICTION 

Wellington Phoenix 2 Newcastle Jets 0