Preview: Newcastle Jets v Sydney FC

Newcastle quickly put its loss to the Gold Coast behind it by recording a convincing 2-0 victory over Brisbane Roar away from home.

Date: Sunday, January 24 Kick-off: 5pm local (5pm AEDT) Venue: EnergyAustralia Stadium

TV and Radio: Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 3, 3 HD and Sky Sport 3. To purchase tickets visit www.proticket.com.au. League club broadcast partner is 1233 ABC Newcastle.

Head-to-head Played 16: Wins: Newcastle 3, Sydney FC 8. Draws: 5

Previous meeting Sydney FC 1, Newcastle 3, Sydney Football Stadium, Round 16, November 2009

Past five matches: Newcastle: Round 20: Newcastle Jets 3, North Queensland 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 21: Perth Glory 4, Newcastle Jets 0, ME Bank Stadium Round 22: Newcastle Jets 3, Melbourne Victory 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 19: Gold Coast United 2, Newcastle 0, Skilled Park Round 23: Brisbane Roar 0, Newcastle 2, Suncorp Stadium

Sydney FC: Round 20: Melbourne Victory 0, Sydney FC 0, Etihad Stadium Round 19: Central Coast 0, Sydney FC 1, Bluetongue Stadium Round 21: Sydney FC 1, Adelaide United 0, Sydney Football Stadium Round 22: Perth Glory 0, Sydney FC 0, ME Bank Stadium Round 23: Sydney FC 0, Gold Coast United 1, Sydney Football Stadium

Analysis:

Newcastle quickly put its loss to the Gold Coast behind it by recording a convincing 2-0 victory over Brisbane Roar away from home.

After a 0-0 first half, captain Matthew Thompson put his Jets in front after the break before Michael Bridges took a successful penalty kick five minutes later to double their advantage. The side's ability to maintain a clean-sheet - a feat last achieved in Round 17 - was almost as important as the goals.

Newcastle has all but earned a finals berth and probably feels, with a bit of luck, a top-two finish is still achievable. A win against Sydney FC would definitely make life interesting at the top of the table especially if the Gold Coast and Melbourne aren't on their games this week.

While the controversy surrounding the Beijing-bound Joel Griffiths must have been a distraction, the Jets have done well to keep the points ticking over in the home stretch of the season. It's now up to them to keep the winning momentum going.

Coach Branko Culina has included Labinot Haliti and Sasho Petrovski in his extended squad and has also issued a challenge to youngster Ben Kantarovski to lift his game.

But the Jets will need all of their players to lift if they are to beat the Sky Blues who'll be hurting after their loss to the Gold Coast.

The usual criticisms arise when things don't go Sydney's way. Many believe it's a team that's vulnerable when the opposition is overly attacking while its lack of pace can be exposed if the opposing midfield is fleet-footed.

Despite these perceived shortcomings, Sydney will still be calm about this weekend's challenge. It regains the dangerous Alex Brosque and has called up Brendan Gan for this contest. Simon Colosimo, who returned from suspension last week, is also sure to get more game time this week.

This will be a hard-fought contest but we're giving Sydney the points in this one.

Newcastle Jets squad: 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, 11. Tarek ELRICH, 12. Jobe WHEELHOUSE, 14. Michael BRIDGES, 15. Sean ROONEY, 22. Kaz PATAFTA, 25. Labinot HALITI, 26. Ali ABBAS, 30. Dion SHAW (gk) In: Labinot HALITI (promoted), Sasho PETROVSKI

Out: Nil

Unavailable: 13. Shaun ONTONG (Achilles - indefinite), 17. Fabio VIGNAROLI (knee - indefinite), 18. Marko JESIC (knee - indefinite), 20. Neil YOUNG (gk) (face - 2-3 weeks)

Sydney FC squad: 1.Clint BOLTON (gk), 3.Stephan KELLER, 4.Simon COLOSIMO, 6.Karol KISEL, 7.Brendan GAN, 8.Stuart MUSIALIK, 9.John ALOISI, 10.Steve CORICA (c), 12.Shannon COLE, 14.Alex BROSQUE, 15.Terry MCFLYNN, 16.Chris PAYNE, 19.Mark BRIDGE, 20.Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 22.Sung-Hwan BYUN, 23. Rhyan GRANT, 26 Hayden FOXE In: Brendan GAN (promoted), Alex BROSQUE (returns from injury)

Out: Nil

Unavailable: Kofi DANNING (knee - season), Matthew JURMAN (foot - season), Sebastian RYALL (knee - 4 weeks)