Preview: Newcastle v North Queensland

The Jets enter Sunday's clash against the Fury as the form team in the competition having won three in a row to occupy fourth spot on a crowded ladder with eight regular-season matches remaining.

Date: Sunday December 20 Kick-off: 5pm (AEDT) Venue: Energy Australia Stadium TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 2. To purchase tickets visit Head-to-head: Played 1: Wins: Newcastle Jets 1, North Queensland Fury 0, Draws: 0

Previous meeting: Newcastle Jets 2, North Queensland Fury 0, Energy Australia Stadium, Round 14, 8 November 2009

Past five matches:

Round 14: Newcastle Jets 2, North Queensland Fury 0, Energy Australia Stadium Round 15: Newcastle Jets 0, Wellington Phoenix 1, Energy Australia Stadium 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, Energy Australia Stadium

Round 15: North Queensland Fury 1, Central Coast Mariners 5, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 16: North Queensland Fury 2, Adelaide United 1, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 17: Sydney FC 4, North Queensland Fury 1, Sydney Football Round 18: North Queensland Fury 1, Perth Glory 0, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 19: Brisbane Roar 2, North Queensland Fury 0, Suncorp Stadium

Analysis: The Newcastle Jets enter Sunday's clash as the form team in the competition having won three in a row to occupy fourth spot on a crowded ladder with eight regular-season matches remaining.

Another win could elevate Branko Culina's men above Gold Coast United and into third position, while the ninth-placed North Queensland Fury could storm into the top six with an upset victory on the road.

The red-hot Jets confirmed their credentials as a genuine contender for the 2009/10 Hyundai A-League Championship with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Gold Coast United in what was a thoroughly entertaining clash last Sunday. They have now collected 16 points from a possible 21 dating back to Round 12.

But while the underrated Jets have continued to perform against the odds in recent weeks, the loss of marquee Italian Fabio Vignaroli for the remainder of the campaign with a knee injury has the potential to disrupt their late-season charge.

The Jets will also be without the services of Ben Kantarovski through suspension while former Leeds striker Michael Bridges also remains unavailable with a hamstring injury, but is expected to return as early as next week.

North Queensland also enters the clash without several key personnel with midfielder Rostyn Griffiths unavailable through suspension, while Shane Stefanutto, Scott Wilson, James Robinson and Ufuk Talay are all on the long-term injured list.

David Williams has been named in the preliminary squad despite initial fears he would be sidelined for an extended period with a hamstring strain suffered against Brisbane Roar.

The inconsistent Fury could not back up their hard-fought 1-0 win over Perth Glory last Friday, going down 2-0 at the hands of the Roar in their midweek encounter at Suncorp Stadium five days later.

But while the recent habit of following a win with a loss is a concern, their respectable record on the road this season is cause for some hope for the visitors. While they have lost their two most recent away matches, the Fury have managed five draws and two victories (against Sydney FC and Gold Coast) on enemy territory in their maiden season.

Newcastle Jets squad: 1. Ben KENNEDY (gk), 2. Angelo COSTANZO, 3. Adam D-APUZZO, 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 5. Ljubo MILICEVIC, 7. Jin-Hyung SONG, 8. Matt THOMPSON (c), 9. Sasho PETROVSKI, 10. Donny DE GROOT, 11. Tarek ELRICH, 12. Jobe WHEELHOUSE, 15. Sean ROONEY, 20. Neil YOUNG (gk), 22. Kaz PATAFTA, 25. Labinot HALITI, 26. Ali ABBAS *one to be omitted*

In: Angelo COSTANZO (promoted), Donny DE GROOT (promoted), Ali ABBAS (promoted)

Out: Fabio VIGNAROLI (knee - indefinite), Ben KANTAROVSKI (suspended - 1 week)

Unavailable: Shaun ONTONG (Achilles - indefinite), Michael BRIDGES (hamstring 1-2 weeks), Marko JESIC (knee - indefinite)

North Queensland Fury squad: 1.Paul HENDERSON (gk), 2.Robbie MIDDLEBY, 3. Chris TADROSSE, 7.Jason SPAGNUOLO, 9.Robbie FOWLER (c), 10.Jeremy BROCKIE, 11.David WILLIAMS, 12.Jack HINGERT,14.Chris GROSSMAN, 16. Paul KOHLER, 19.Daniel MCBREEN, 20. Justin PASFIELD (gk), 24 Dyron DAAL, 26 Matt SMITH, 27 Terry COOKE

In: Jack HINGERT (promoted)

Out: Rostyn GRIFFITHS (suspended - 1 week)

Unavailable: Shane STEFANUTTO (knee - indefinite), Scott WILSON (knee - indefinite), James ROBINSON (knee- indefinite), Ufuk TALAY (calf - 4/6 weeks)