Preview: Newcastle v Wellington
Both these teams will be desperate to make an impressive start to the season in order to build confidence in their squads and quell the naysayers who have already written them off for season 2009/10.
Date: Sunday August 9 Kick-off: 3:00pm AEST Venue: EnergyAustralia Stadium TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 3 and Sky Sports 1. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is 1233 ABC Newcastle, The Radio Network (Wellington) 1035AM. To purchase tickets visit www.ProTicket.com.au
Head-to-head 6 Hyundai A-League meetings: Wins: Wellington 3, Newcastle 2, Draws, 1
Previous clash: Wellington Phoenix 3, Newcastle Jets 0, Westpac Stadium, Round 18, January 2009
Pre-Season: (Matches against A-League opposition or touring teams) Newcastle: July 12: Newcastle Jets 0, Sydney FC 2, Port Macquarie July 26: Sydney FC 1, Newcastle Jets 1, Sydney Football Stadium
Wellington Phoenix: June 27: Wellington Phoenix 1, Melbourne Victory 1, Queenstown Events Centre, Queenstown July 25: Central Coast Mariners 0, Wellington Phoenix 0, Appex Oval, Dubbo
Analysis Both these teams will be desperate to make an impressive start to the season in order to build confidence in their squads and quell the naysayers who have already written them off for season 2009/10.
This match marks Branko Culina's first official match in charge of the Jets having taken over after Gary van Egmond's sudden departure last month. It might not have been the ideal build-up for the experienced manager, but it certainly hasn't dampened his enthusiasm. Early this week, Culina could not have sounded any more excited about his second shot at coaching a Hyundai A-League team and after an Asian Champions League which had its fair share of upside, he has a confident group behind him.
Perhaps the best piece of news for the Jets came in the week leading up to the opening game with Italian dynamo Fabio Vignaroli agreeing to a one-year contract with the club. The former Lazio man was the Jets' most impressive in the ACL campaign despite struggling with soft tissue injuries and is a massive bonus for a team which needs someone to direct them around the park.
After the Jets took the wooden spoon last year, it's easy to forget that 18 months ago they were Australian champions. While a fair chunk of that squad is no longer at the club, they still have a very strong squad and have added defensive presence in Angelo Costanzo, Ljubo Milicevic and Nikolai Topor-Stanley.
The absence of Joel Griffiths is a blow, but Sasho Petrovski will lead an attack which also has on offer Dutchman Donny De Groot, and youngsters Sean Rooney, Jason Hoffman and Jason Naidovski. However, the ACL campaign has left a bit of a dent in their squad.
De Groot, Jesic and Jobe Wheelhouse are currently out indefinitely, while Topor-Stanley will miss the opener and Ben Kantarovski the first two matches with knee injuries.
The Jets fell away badly towards the end of last season, but their effort in making the second round of the ACL can not be underestimated. A limited pre-season has seen them play just two matches against Hyundai A-League opposition, a loss and a draw against Sydney FC.
Wellington lost a couple of big-name players in Shane Smeltz and Glen Moss and has put its faith in a couple of journeymen in Paul Ifill and Chris Greenacre up front. The Phoenix were very competitive towards the tail end of last year and they drew both of their games against Hyundai A-League opposition in the pre-season.
Herbert will be looking for his team to be a lot better on the road this year having picked up just five of their 26 points in season 2008/09 away. On their only trip to EnergyAustralia Stadium last season, they picked up a point, but will be keen to get all three here.
Wellington has never opened its season with a win, having drawn both of its opening matches so far, while it's a similar story for the Jets who have had three draws and a loss in their four season.
Ricki Herbert goes into the season-opener with a full squad to pick from. He selected a squad of 19, with four to be omitted by the time they run out onto the pitch on Sunday.
Newcastle Jets: Ben KENNEDY (gk), 2. Angelo COSTANZO, 3. Adam D-APUZZO, 5. Ljubo MILICEVIC, 7. Jin-Hyung SONG, 8. Matt THOMPSON (c), 9. Sasho PETROVSKI, 11. Tarek ELRICH, 13. Shaun ONTONG, 15. Sean ROONEY, 16. Jason HOFFMAN, 19. Jason NAIDOVSKI, 21. Brodie MOOY, 20. Neil YOUNG (gk), 22. Kaz PATAFTA
Unavailable: 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY (knee - 1 week), 6. Ben KANTAROVSKI (knee - 2 weeks), 10. Donny DE GROOT (knee - indefinite), 12. Jobe WHEELHOUSE (ankle - indefinite), 18. Marko JESIC (knee - indefinite)
Wellington Phoenix: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. DIEGO, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL. 9. Chris GREENACRE, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 16. David MULLIGAN. 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 21. Marco ROJAS, 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 23. Costa BARBAROUSES. *four to be omitted