Preview: Newcastle Jets v Adelaide United

Adelaide have been up and about for a while now due to AFC Champions League commitment, but that's also something of a curse this week as they face a hectic travel schedule.

Date: Sunday October 7, 2012 Kick-off: 3.00pm AEDT Venue: Hunter Stadium

Head-to-head Played: 20 Wins: Newcastle 7, Adelaide 7, Draws: 6

Previous encounter Newcastle 1, Adelaide 0, 24 February 2012

Form: Past five matches: Newcastle: WWDDW Adelaide: WWWDL

The Game Gary van Egmond's new-look squad will get its first proper test here, although Newcastle will be without one of the team's key recruits - former Gold Coast livewire James Brown, who recently underwent surgery to remove bone spurs from his right foot.

Van Egmond has overhauled the Jets in the off-season, pushing a new brand of football that focuses on ball retention, short passing and pace. Expect a 4-3-3.

The Jets come up against a side that is not exactly lacking in match fitness. Although reigning club champion Zenon Caravella is out with a hip injury and Argentine import Marcelo Carrusca is still battling a calf complaint, Adelaide have been up and about for a while now due to AFC Champions League commitments. But that's also something of a curse this week as they face a hectic travel schedule for their return to Australia following Thursday morning's gallant 3-2 extra-time loss to FC Bunyodkor in Tashkent in the quarter finals second leg.

They, too, have changed their ways this term - John Kosmina's men are now playing out from the back and the results so far have been impressive. The first half of the first leg against Bunyodkor was stunning stuff - until Nigel Boogaard's red card tipped the tie on its head, that is.

The big issue Newcastle - Will he come off the bench? Will he start? A lot of the intrigue surrounding this game will be focused squarely on the broad shoulders of the English enigma, Emile Heskey.

What we do know is that he will be taking part in this match. And when he does, he'll most likely be an out-and-out number nine at the point of a youthful attacking triumvirate - a very exciting prospect.

The Jets' marquee man has had his fair share of knockers throughout his career and the ones here in Australia certainly made themselves known when he put pen to paper with Newcastle. But there won't be a defender in the Hyundai A-League not shaking in their boots at the prospect of Heskeytime.

Adelaide - Just how weary are the Reds going to be after coming back from Tashkent? United will only get in one training session before the Newcastle game - and it'll be jammed into the middle of a 12-hour stopover in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.

They're scheduled to arrive in Sydney on Saturday morning but there's no doubting that jetlag is going to play a part. But will it be Jets-lag? Don't be surprised if a number of fresher faces - Antony Golec and Jake Barker-Daish, who were unused substitutes in Tashkent, or Osama Malik and Jeronimo Neumann, who came off the bench, play significant roles to help juggle the load.

Gamebreaker Bernardo Ribeiro. As the creative fulcrum of this Newcastle side, if a ladder rise is going to happen this season then the Brazilian playmaker is going be a huge reason why.

In fact, since the arrival of Heskey his importance has increased even more. Heskey is known for holding up the ball and flicking it onto on-rushing teammates - but to be effective, he has to have it in the right positions, and more often than not it will be Ribeiro delivering it to him. At just 22, he's still young and hasn't played much first-team football, but his pedigree - Ribeiro is a Flamengo product, like many of the Hyundai A-League's more successful Brazilians, and spent time with rising Serie A club Catania - suggests he has what it takes. Against a tired Adelaide defence on Sunday, he holds the key to victory.

Prediction: With both sides reinventing themselves to varying degrees in the off-season, it's tough to gauge where Newcastle and Adelaide are really at. Both teams went through their warm-up campaigns undefeated against Hyundai A-League opposition.

All things considered, Newcastle deserve favouritism. Adelaide generally find it tough at Hunter Stadium. Factor in an expected bumper crowd to welcome Emile Heskey to his new stomping ground, and the tired Adelaide bodies after travelling all the way from Uzbekistan, and the odds are certainly stacked against them. The Jets should take this 2-0.

You can follow all the action LIVE via our ABC Radio stream in the match centre.