Preview: Newcastle Jets v Western Sydney Wanderers

Newcastle Jets and Western Sydney Wanderers will meet in Round 17 of the 2013-14 A-League season at Hunter Stadium on Saturday, February 1 at 7.45pm AEDT.

Newcastle Jets and Western Sydney Wanderers will meet in Round 17 of the 2013-14 A-League season at Hunter Stadium on Saturday, February 1 at 7.45pm AEDT.


Played: 4 Wins: Jets 1, Wanderers 3, Draws: 0

Previous encounter:

Newcastle Jets 0-1 Western Sydney Wanderers, December 14 2013


Past five matches:


Wanderers: WLLWL

The Game:

Both teams are struggling for form going into this one but there's no doubt it's the Jets who will be the less happy of the two.

A 3-1 defeat away to Melbourne Heart in Round 15 saw Gary van Egmond sacked and Clayton Zane promoted from his role with the youth team to interim head coach.

His debut in the dugout was not a success, as the Jets offered no resistance in losing 3-0 away to local rivals Central Coast in the F3 derby.

The Wanderers meanwhile have won two of their last four, but lost three in five, a return unthinkable since they embarked on their spectacular run mid-way through last season.

Tony Popovic oversaw a stabilising 3-1 win at away-day strugglers Perth Glory on Sunday, and his team have a good opportunity to make it two from two when they journey up the road on Saturday evening.

The big issue:

Jets - Who and what are the Jets playing for under Zane? The club justified their decision to dismiss Van Egmond on the basis that they can't afford to miss another opportunity to qualify for the finals, but putting the youth team coach in charge is no guarantee of a top-six finish.

Rather than enjoying the lift or bounce factor often associated with making a change in the dugout, they looked listless at Bluetongue Stadium, and will need to produce a significantly more energetic, disciplined display to have any chance against the Wanderers

Wanderers - Western Sydney need to seize their chance to make it two from two before turning their attention to a key game at home to league leaders Brisbane on February 7.

That's followed by a tough trip to take on Perth Glory and an Asian Champions League debut at home to Ulsan.

Popovic will want his players to go into that significant sequence of matches in the best shape possible.

Compared with the teams that await, a short trip to tackle the relatively rudderless Jets should be relatively easy, right?

The game breaker:

Ruben Zadkovich - Where will Zane choose to deploy the versatile Jets skipper?

He surprised most of us by playing him on the right wing against the Mariners, and the Jets missed his influence in the middle of the park, where Zenon Caravella and Josh Brillante lost out to Nick Montgomery and Anthony Cacerers.

The Wanderers' midfield will be an even tougher prospect. Matthew Spiranovic enjoyed a run out in front of the defence against Perth and could yet keep his place there, while Aaron Mooy and Shinji Ono will be difficult to get the ball off.

Midfield enforcer Mateo Poljak could also be available after returning from injury, meaning the Jets may well need Zadkovich back in the middle if they are to have any chance of influencing proceedings.