Preview: Newcastle v Melbourne
Newcastle will feel slightly aggrieved having lost to Melbourne the last time these two met, so expect the Jets to come out firing.
Date: Sunday January 10 Kick-off: 5:00pm AEDT Venue: EnergyAustralia Stadium, Newcastle
Head-to-head 14 Hyundai A-League meetings: Wins: Newcastle 7, Melbourne 4, Draws: 3
Previous Meeting Newcastle Jets 1, Melbourne Victory 3, EnergyAustralia Stadium, October 2009
Past five matches: Newcastle Jets: Round 16: Sydney FC 1, Newcastle Jets 3, Sydney Football Stadium Round 17: Adelaide United 0, Newcastle Jets 2, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 18: Newcastle Jets 3, Gold Coast United 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 20: Newcastle Jets 3, North Queensland 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 21: Perth Glory 4, Newcastle Jets 0, ME Bank Stadium
Melbourne Victory: Round 16: Melbourne Victory 4, Gold Coast United 0, Etihad Stadium Round 17: Wellington Phoenix 1, Melbourne Victory 1, Westpac Stadium Round 18: Central Coast Mariners 0, Melbourne Victory 3, Bluetongue Stadium Round 20: Melbourne Victory 0, Sydney FC 0, Etihad Stadium Round 21: North Queensland Fury 1, Melbourne Victory 0, Dairy Farmers Stadium
Analysis: Fourth-placed Newcastle will be looking to maintain its charge up the Hyundai A-League table when its hosts second-placed Melbourne Victory at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Sunday.
The Jets have powered up the table courtesy of four consecutive wins prior to the reality check of a 4-0 defeat in Perth on Boxing Day. Branko Culina and his men will be out to prove that was a blip on the radar and not the end of a heady run which has put the 2007/08 champs firmly in the race for the finals.
The loss against Perth was almost too bad to be true after such strong performances against the likes of Sydney, Gold Coast and North Queensland. The defence simply fell apart in the first half and there has been plenty of time to reflect on that performance over the New Year's break.
Michael Bridges, who was one of the main drivers behind Newcastle's recent revival, returns for this match, while Angelo Costanzo has been included in an extended squad.
These two teams have met on two occasions this year. The first match ended 1-1 at Etihad Stadium after Labinot Haliti scored a late equaliser, while in the EnergyAustralia Stadium clash last October, Haliti put the Jets in front before Melbourne overpowered them with three goals in the second half.
Carlos Hernandez was the difference between the sides in that match, setting up two goals and scoring the other in what was Melbourne's first Hyundai A-League win in Newcastle in three years.
The Costa Rican, who missed the 1-0 defeat by North Queensland with an ankle injury, returns to haunt the Jets again in this match and he will be joined by compatriot Marvin Angulo in what will be his first game for the club. Leigh Broxham returns from suspension while Mate Dugandzic is also in an extended squad.
Both teams have players returning from national duty with the Qantas Socceroos in Kuwait. Melbourne's Archie Thompson and Matthew Kemp played full games in that 2-2 draw while Jets skipper Matt Thompson came on as a second half substitute. All three are expected to play.
Melbourne, which boasts easily the best road record in the league, suffered a rare away defeat in Townsville in its last match. In one of its flatter performances of the season, Melbourne succumbed 1-0 to North Queensland and has the fire back in the belly after having two weeks to digest that disappointment.
Melbourne's pursuit of the Premiers' Plate sees it three points behind Sydney FC, but it has a game in hand. Significantly it has not lost back-to-back games at any stage this season and with three consecutive home games coming up, it will be keen to gain some momentum.
There are plenty of interesting sub-plots in this one with former Melbourne players Ljubo Milecevic and Kaz Patafta lining up for Newcastle in a match which pits the past two Hyundai A-League champions against each other.
Newcastle will feel slightly aggrieved having lost to Melbourne the last time these two met, so expect the Jets to come out firing. However, the Victory midfield is almost back to full strength and will be looking to control the game and give Hernandez, Thompson and maybe even Angulo, plenty of attacking opportunities to work with.
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, 20. Neil YOUNG (gk), 22. Kaz PATAFTA, 25. Labinot HALITI, 26. Ali ABBAS *two to be omitted*
In: Angelo COSTANZO (promoted), Michael BRIDGES (returns from injury)
Unavailable: Shaun ONTONG (Achilles - indefinite), Jason HOFFMAN (calf - 1 week), Fabio VIGNAROLI (knee - indefinite), Marko JESIC (knee - indefinite)
Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (c), 3.Mate DUGANDZIC, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 13.Nathan ELASI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Matthew FOSCHINI, 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 21.Robbie KRUSE, 22.Nick WARD, 23.Adrian LEIJER, 24.Luke PILKINGTON, 26.Marvin ANGULO *Three to be omitted*
In: Marvin ANGULO (promoted), Leigh BROXHAM (return from suspension), Mate DUGANDZIC (promoted), Carlos HERNANDEZ (return from injury)
Out: Sutee SUKSOMKIT (end of guest contract)
Unavailable: Evan BERGER (hamstring, 1 week), Billy CELESKI (knee, season), Steven PACE (abdomen, indefinite), Surat SUKHA (hamstring, 2 weeks)