This match is shaping an old-fashioned six-pointer with both sides on the cusp of the top six.
Date: Saturday, January 12, 2013 Kick-off: 7:45pm AEDT Venue: Hunter Stadium, Newcastle
Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1HD and Sky Sports 2.
ABC Radio Coverage - 1233 Newcastle and online
Head-to-head: Played 23: Wins: Newcastle 8, Brisbane 9, Draws 6 Previous encounter: Brisbane Roar 1-0 Newcastle, December 1 2012
Form: Past five matches: Newcastle: DLLWL Brisbane: LWWLD
The Game: Newcastle head into the game without a win in their past three matches after last week's scoreless draw against Adelaide followed on from consecutive away losses to the two Melbourne sides. The main positive to come out of the clash with the Reds was the fact Gary van Egmond's men managed to keep a clean sheet for the first time this season. And they were probably unlucky not to snatch all three points after Reds goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic pulled off a string of impressive saves.
Brisbane looked back on track after wins over Adelaide and Wellington, but suffered a 3-2 loss against Melbourne Heart last week. The Roar were completely outplayed by their opponents, but almost snatched something from the match with Besart Berisha's late brace setting up a nervy finale for the hosts, who were reduced to 10 men.
The big issue: Newcastle - The main issue surrounding the Jets heading into this clash is the fitness of marquee player Emile Heskey and stand-in captain Ruben Zadkovich. Heskey missed the second half of the clash against Adelaide with a hip injury. Scans on Monday confirmed a minor strain, which is likely to keep the former England international in the stands, although he could be deployed as a super sub. Zadkovich twisted his knee during training on Tuesday and while there is no major damage, he is unlikely to be risked, which could pave the way for regular captain Jobe Wheelhouse to come straight back into the side.
Brisbane - Can Jade North solve their defensive frailties? The former Jets skipper and Socceroos defender signed with the club on Tuesday and will slot straight into the heart of defence in a much-needed boost for the Roar. Brisbane were hopelessly exposed by the Heart last week, especially for the third goal as Fred was left completely unmarked to slot home from close range. North is likely to partner Matt Smith in central defence with Matthew Jurman, who has struggled, tipped to be benched.
The game breaker: Besart Berisha - The Albanian forward has struggled to reach the heights of his amazing debut season last year, but appears to be slowly finding his feet. Last week against Heart he was relatively quiet but expertly dispatched a penalty before scoring again minutes later from a tight angle.
The reigning Golden Boot winner now has eight goals to his name, which is a pretty good return considering his struggles with form and fitness. The Newcastle defence will have their hands full containing the powerful forward and if he gets on a goal-scoring run it could be just the tonic the Roar need to surge up the ladder.
Prediction: Newcastle 0-2 Brisbane This match is shaping an old-fashioned six-pointer with both sides on the cusp of the top six. Brisbane are in seventh place on 17 points, ahead of Newcastle on goal difference with both the Heart (18 points) and Perth (19 points) within striking distance for either side. Brisbane will hold no fears of travelling to Newcastle with just one loss from their 13 visits. They have taken three points from Hunter Stadium seven times and with their defence shored up with the arrival of North, we expect that trend to continue.