Preview: Newcastle Jets v Melbourne Victory

Newcastle Jets and Melbourne Victory will meet in Round 14 of the 2013-14 A-League season at Hunter Stadium on Friday, January 10 at 7:30pm AEDT.

Newcastle Jets and Melbourne Victory will meet in Round 14 of the 2013-14 A-League season at Hunter Stadium on Friday, January 10 at 7:30pm AEDT.

Head-to-head:

Played 25 – Win: Jets 12, Victory 9, Draws 4

Previous encounter:

Victory 1-2 Jets, December 8, 2013

Form:  Past five matches:

Jets: LLWLW Victory: LDWWL

The Game:

Melbourne Victory will head to their least favourite A-League venue with a threadbare squad and the knowledge they have not won at Hunter Stadium since 2009. Melbourne have a winning percentage of just 18.18 away to the Jets. With Jason Geria, Nick Ansell, Connor Pain and Scott Galloway at the Under 22 Asian Championships in Oman, Victory head coach Kevin Muscat will also be missing Adrian Leijer (suspension), while Pablo Contreras (groin), Archie Thompson (hamstring) and captain Mark Milligan (knee) are all under injury clouds ahead of the trip to Newcastle.

The Big V were smashed 3-0 by league leaders Brisbane Roar last week to leave them 11 points adrift of the Queenslanders with just over half the season left before finals. Muscat's men will start Friday night's game just a point ahead of Newcastle, who have lost their past two matches, including a 1-0 defeat to Perth Glory last week. But Jets head coach Gary Van Egmond should be confident after watching his team knock off Victory 2-1 in Melbourne in Round 9. The Jets have generally stepped up against the top four sides this season, having won three times and lost just once in five fixtures.

The big issue:

Jets - After a strong November (three wins, one draw, one loss), December was a tough month for Newcastle (two wins, three losses) and has seen them drop back into mid-table. The goals have dried up for Van Egmond's men with just two, including one own goal, in the past four games. Can Adam Taggart stand up again for the Jets? The 20-year-old striker has been overhauled at the top of the A-League scoring charts by Victory's James Troisi (seven) with Taggart (six) scoreless in six matches.

Victory – Having only kept one clean sheet in their past 11 away matches, now is hardly the time for the Big V to suffer a personnel crisis at the back. With Milligan having limped out of training on Thursday due to his troublesome right knee, Muscat may not be able to select his captain in the centre of Victory's back four, as many had predicted he would. Melbourne essentially have just two fully fit defenders - Adama Traore and teenager Dylan Murnane - ahead of the trip to Newcastle, so how will Muscat set his team up?

The game breaker:

Nathan Burns - The last time these two teams met, Burns scored twice in what was arguably his best performance of his loan spell at Newcastle. The 25-year-old forward is set to return to K-League club Incheon United after the clash with Victory and, while the Jets want to extend his loan until the end of the season, another match-winning performance against Melbourne would at least be the ideal going-away present for Newcastle.