Melbourne Victory have not kept a team scoreless in five games and it is hard to imagine they will manage a clean sheet on Sunday against one of their hoodoo clubs in Newcastle.
Date: Sunday 3 March, 2013 Kick-off: 5.00pm AEDT, 5.00pm local Venue: AAMI Park
Head-to-head Played: 23 Wins: Victory 8, Newcastle 11, Draws: 4
Previous encounter Victory 3, Newcastle 2, 28 December 2012
Form: Past five matches: Victory: LLLWW Newcastle: WDWLD
The Game On the back of a breakthrough victory in New Zealand, Newcastle Jets manager Gary van Egmond has revealed he will surprisingly rest veteran strikers Emile Heskey and Michael Bridges for Sunday's game against the Melbourne Victory.
The Jets defeated the Wellington Phoenix 2-1 on Wednesday night, their first win at Westpac Stadium in 10 attempts, and with just three days between games, van Egmond believes 35-year-old Heskey and Bridges, 34, will need a rest as Newcastle complete three matches in 10 days. Zenon Caravella will also miss the trip to Melbourne with a hamstring injury he sustained against the Phoenix, while Sam Gallaway (knee) may also be unavailable.
Melbourne Victory manager Ange Postecoglou has included his own veteran striker, Archie Thompson, in his extended 19-man squad to face Newcastle. Thompson has not played since Victory's 1-0 loss away to Adelaide United when he strained a hamstring and was taken off in the first half. In Thompson's absence, Postecoglou's side have lost three games in a row and Victory fans will hope the 34-year-old striker's return will see the Big V return to winning ways. The Victory will still be without Marcos Flores, however, as the Argentine has not recovered from a quadriceps injury.
The Big Issue Victory: Can Postecoglou's team take advantage of their relatively easy run to the finals? Having lost to the Hyundai A-League's top three teams in their past three games, the Victory need to reaffirm their championship credentials over the final five rounds before the finals - starting on Sunday. Melbourne face five of the bottom six clubs before the finals and while the Premier's Plate is most likely out of reach, a convincing win over the Jets could spark a run to the Grand Final.
The Jets: It took Bridges a while to get a decent shot under van Egmond. The veteran Englishman's first eight appearances this season were off the bench but Bridges has now started Newcastle's past three matches and dominated the first half against Wellington, scoring his first goal of the season. How will the Jets handle his, and Heskey's, absence at AAMI Park? With Ryan Griffiths having left Newcastle this week to sign for Beijing Baxy, a lot of responsibility will rest on Adam Taggart's shoulders after the teenage forward struck his maiden goal for the Jets against Wellington.
Gamebreaker Marco Rojas: Not only has Thompson's injury coincided in three consecutive losses for Melbourne, it has also seen Rojas fail to score or provide an assist for four straight games - the first time that has happened this season. With his strike partner back, expect Rojas to flourish against Newcastle.
Prediction: Victory 2-1 Newcastle. Postecoglou's men have not kept a team scoreless in five games and with one of their hoodoo clubs coming to town, it is hard to imagine the Victory will manage a clean sheet on Sunday.
Newcastle are one of only two foundation A-League clubs to have a positive record against Victory and they have a good scoring record at AAMI Park. The Jets have hit the back of the net in all but two of their nine trips to the Melbourne stadium against both the Victory and Heart. But having only won two of those matches, history is against Newcastle taking three points back to the Hunter Valley.
Melbourne are in danger of losing touch with the top three in the A-League if they fail to knock off Newcastle and Postecoglou put the Victory through a tough session on Thursday, clearly keen to end his team's losing streak. And with the Jets lacking the three men (Heskey, Bridges and Griffiths) who have scored six of their last eight goals, van Egmond's side could provide the easy target the Victory need to turn their form around.