Preview: Newcastle Jets v Gold Coast United
Date: Sunday August 30 Kick-off:3:00pm AEST Venue: EnergyAustralia Stadium It's not quite Luke Skywalker v Darth Vader but the clash of the Culina's will be the big talking point this weekend
Date: Sunday August 30 Kick-off: 3:00pm AEST Venue: EnergyAustralia Stadium TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 3. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is 1233 ABC Newcastle. To purchase tickets visit www.ProTicket.com.au
Season so far: 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
Gold Coast United: Round 1: Brisbane Roar 1, Gold Coast United 3, Suncorp Stadium Round 2: Gold Coast United 5, North Queensland 0, Skilled Park Round 3: Adelaide United 0, Gold Coast United 2, Hindmarsh Stadium
Analysis It's not quite Luke Skywalker v Darth Vader but the clash of the Culina's will be the big talking point this weekend, as Jets' coach Branko Culina tries putting the brakes on son Jason and his domineering Gold Coast United team-mates.
Branko has admitted this will be no easy task but the Jets are a stubborn side that's difficult to beat as Wellington and Central Coast will attest, while a 2-0 away loss to the Glory last weekend came on the back of a sensational second goal from Perth's Adriano Pellegrino. That being said, the loss in Perth demonstrated that Newcastle's defence is still taking time to gel, while further up the park, limiting the output from Fabio Vignaroli seriously dried up the chances created for Jets' strikers Jason Hoffman and Sasho Petrovski.
Culina Sr, though, knows Jason's game backwards and is probably the most qualified person to work out how to quell his influence. Unfortunately, the Gold Coast is no one-man side, so Culina will still have to stop Shane Smeltz, Joel Porter and Tahj Minniecon as well. To do this, the Jets' coach has bolstered his defence by bringing back Ang Costanzo, suggesting the former Adelaide centre-half will line up alongside Nikolai Topor-Stanley at the heart of the back four, allowing the combative Ljubo Milicevic to move into the midfield. Ljubo's brief will be simple and that's to man-mark Jason Culina. A domineering physical presence, Milicevic will attempt to stop the rolling waves of attacks United launches through Culina, while using his classy distribution to release speedy flankers Tarek Elrich and Jin-Hyung Song.
Stopping the League's top goal scorer in Smeltz may be another matter entirely, but the Jets will be helped by Topor-Stanley's experience. The 2008 Olympian was part of a Perth Glory back four that didn't allow Smeltz to score in any of the three games played last season. Branko Culina will be hoping Topor-Stanley has a few tips, especially as limiting goals during the early stages could prove vital to Newcastle's chances of snatching a result.
For the Gold Coast, meanwhile, life's pretty cruisy. The club was given a major boost on Thursday night when Steve Pantelidis had a one-match suspension overturned on appeal, allowing the midfielder to retain his position in the squad. Daniel Piokorwski was originally meant to replace Pantelidis, but he also stays in the team ahead of coach Miron Bleiberg finalising the side. One suspects though, that Bleiberg will simply field the same starting XI that did the job against Adelaide last weekend, particularly in the first hour. In that period Smeltz scored his sixth goal from three matches before Steve Fitzsimmons doubled the advantage, although United could have scored several more times as it wasted some good opportunities.
Although, United's strike force and midfield has been garnering significant attention, Bleiberg has been quick to attribute much of the club's success to a solid back four consisting of Michael Thwaite, Bas van den Brink, Kristian Rees and Adama Traore. The defence is yet to concede a goal from open play this season, although it rode its luck at times during the final half hour against Adelaide as the Reds stepped up a gear. The usually defensive Reds, powered by new signing Lloyd Owuso, peppered the Gold Coast goal, causing some frantic scenes and desperate saves from Scott Higgins. The sight of these attacks will bring hope to Branko Culina, as it proves the Gold Coast is still not quite the finished product, despite its impressive start. Therefore if the Jets can limit the damage early and force the Gold Coast to attack them, an opportunity to test that defence may arise on the counter, but that's easier said than done, given the quality and creativity of United's attacking players.
Newcastle Jets: 1.Ben KENNEDY (gk), 2. Angelo COSTANZO, 3. Adam D-APUZZO, 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 5. Ljubo MILICEVIC, 6. Ben KANTAROVSKI, 7. Jin-Hyung SONG, 8. Matt THOMPSON (c), 9. Sasho PETROVSKI, 10. Donny DE GROOT, 11. Tarek ELRICH, 13. Shaun ONTONG, 15. Sean ROONEY, 16. Jason HOFFMAN, 17. Fabio VIGNAROLI, 19. Jason NAIDOVSKI, 20. Neil YOUNG (gk), 22. Kaz PATAFTA, 24. Chris TRIANTIS
*four to be omitted*
In: Angelo COSTANZO (promoted), Donny DE GROOT (promoted), Kaz PATAFTA (promoted), Chris TRIANTIS (promoted)
Unavailable: Jobe WHEELHOUSE (ankle - 3 weeks), Marko JESIC (knee - indefinite)
Gold Coast United Squad: 20. Scott HIGGINS (gk), 2. Steve PANTELIDIS, 3. Michael THWAITE, 4. Daniel PIORKOWSKI, 7. Zenon CARAVELLA, 9. Shane SMELTZ, 10. Jason CULINA (c), 13. Bas VAN DEN BRINK, 14. Joel PORTER, 15. Tahj MINNIECON, 16. Kristian REES, 17. Matt OSMAN, 22. Adama TRAORE, 23. Steve FITZSIMMONS, 24. ANDERSON, 40. Robbie BAJIC
*one to be omitted*
In: Daniel PIORKOWSKI (promoted)
Unavailable: JEFFERSON (knee injury - 9 weeks), James BROWN (shin injury - 1 week), Jess VANSTRATTAN (ankle injury - 4 weeks), ROBSON (thigh - 1 week)