Preview: Melbourne Victory v Newcastle Jets
Date: Friday September 3, Kick-off: 7:30pm AEST, Venue: Etihad Stadium, Melbourne. Melbourne is yet to record a victory in two games at home this season and comes up against a Newcastle outfit which has failed to win away in two attempts.
Date: Friday September 3 Kick-off: 7:30pm AEST Venue: Etihad Stadium, Melbourne TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 3. To purchase tickets visit www.ticketmaster.com.au. Broadcast on ABC 774 and SEN 1116
Head-to-head Played 12: Wins: Melbourne 3, Newcastle 7, Draws: 2
Previous meeting Newcastle Jets 4, Melbourne Victory 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium, Round 16, December 2008
Season so far: Melbourne Victory: Round 1: Melbourne Victory 0, Central Coast Mariners 2, Etihad Stadium Round 2: Melbourne Victory 3, Brisbane Roar 3, Etihad Stadium Round 3: North Queensland Fury 1, Melbourne Victory 0, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 4: Perth Glory 2, Melbourne Victory 1, ME Bank Stadium
Newcastle Jets: Round 1: Newcastle Jets 3, Wellington Phoenix 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 2: Central Coast Mariners 1, Newcastle Jets 1, Bluetongue Stadium Round 3: Perth Glory 2, Newcastle Jets 0, ME Bank Stadium Round 4: Newcastle Jets 1, Gold Coast United 0, EnergyAustralia Stadium
Analysis: Melbourne is yet to record a victory in two games at home this season and comes up against a Newcastle outfit which has failed to win away in two attempts. The Victory are coming off a defeat by Perth on the road last week, while Newcastle became the first team to take points off Hyundai A-League newcomer Gold Coast with a 1-0 win at home last week.
Both of these sides could be accused of inconsistency over the first month of the season, with Melbourne unable to put together 90 minutes of consistent football in any of its games to date. The Victory never got going against the Mariners, had to come from two goals down against the Roar, looked flat but got the points against North Queensland and then dominated Perth early before allowing the Glory to grab a winner in the second half.
They haven't been helped by the fact they have been unable to put the same back four on the park in successive weeks with injuries to Kevin Muscat and Evan Berger and Matthew Kemp's unavailability due to the birth of his first child. Kemp's back this week, while Muscat is another week away and Berger another four after undergoing a hernia operation.
Carlos Hernandez misses this match in a blow for the defending champions, but he is pursuing his World Cup aspirations with Costa Rica. Tom Pondeljak is likely to play an advanced role in his place, while Nick Ward should come in to the starting side.
Melbourne has a poor recent record against the Jets having only managed one win in its eight clashes with Newcastle during the Gary van Egmond era. Ernie Merrick may have been secretly happy to have seen Branko Culina take over the reins pre-season. The last time these two met, Matt Thompson scored a hat-trick as Melbourne faltered 4-2 away.
But there are likely to be just a handful of players fronting up again for the Jets in this game, with plenty of new faces. A couple of ex-Victory players are in the squad and while Kaz Patafta may have a point to prove on his return to Etihad Stadium, you-d think most of the spotlight will be on Ljubo Milicevic.
The big defender has been one of the Jets' best this year, giving them some strength in the middle of the park, and when he has been prepared to get forward, has helped set them up for attack. But the real key has been Fabio Vignaroli, who has got a young and somewhat enigmatic side playing some good football.
The Italian is still struggling with injury and fitness and must be a doubt just four days after coming off after a half against the Gold Coast. He has been named, while Labinot Haliti, Donny de Groot and Chris Triantis are included in an extended squad.
The Jets have lost Shaun Ontong for an indefinite amount of time with an Achilles injury, while Ben Kantarovski (ankle) and Jobe Wheelhouse (ankle) are both a fortnight away. Marko Jesic (knee) is another with no definite return date.
The challenge for the Jets is to back up Sunday's superbly disciplined-performance against Gold Coast against a Melbourne side which is desperate to turn positive football into positive results. A win here for Newcastle would confirm that the Gold Coast result was no fluke, while a win for Melbourne could be the kickstart it needs to get its championship defence going.
Melbourne Victory: 1.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 5.Surat SUKHA, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 9.Danny ALLSOPP, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS (c), 14.Billy CELESKI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 17.Matthew FOSCHINI, 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 22.Nick WARD, 23.Adrian LEIJER
In: Matthew KEMP (promoted)
Out: Carlos HERNANDEZ (international duty, 1 week)
Unavailable: Kevin MUSCAT (hamstring, 1 week), Evan BERGER (groin, 3-4 weeks)
Newcastle Jets squad: 1. Ben KENNEDY (gk), 2. Angelo COSTANZO, 3. Adam D-APUZZO, 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 5. Ljubo MILICEVIC, 7. Jin-Hyung SONG, 8. Matt THOMPSON (c), 9. Sasho PETROVSKI, 10. Donny DE GROOT, 11. Tarek ELRICH, 15. Sean ROONEY, 16. Jason HOFFMAN, 17. Fabio VIGNAROLI, 19. Jason NAIDOVSKI, 20. Neil YOUNG (gk), 22. Kaz PATAFTA, 24. Chris TRIANTIS, 25. Labinot HALITI *three to be omitted*
In: Labinot HALITI (new player), Donny DE GROOT (promoted), Chris TRIANTIS (promoted) Out: Shaun ONTONG (Achilles - indefinite) Unavailable: 6. Ben KANTAROVSKI (ankle - 1/2 weeks), 12. Jobe WHEELHOUSE (ankle - 2 weeks), Marko JESIC (knee - indefinite)