You could forgive Newcastle Jets fans – and some players even – for feeling a bit uneasy heading into this match.
Date: Sunday, February 5 Kick-off: 5pm AEDT Venue: Sydney Football Stadium
Head-to-head Played 21: Wins: Sydney 12, Newcastle 3, Draws: 6
Previous encounter Newcastle 1, Sydney 2, December 17, 2011
History: Sydney easily have the wood over the Jets in the history of the Hyundai A-League with the Novocastrians winning just three of the 21 meetings between the two clubs, the last of those way back in November 2009.
The Sky Blues have taken all three points on 12 of those occasions including when they last met at Ausgrid Stadium towards the end of 2011. Despite going behind to a Jeremy Brockie volley in the first half, Sydney hit back with second half goals to Bruno Cazarine and Juho Makela to claim a vital victory.
Form: Past five matches: Sydney: LLDWD Newcastle: LDLDW
Sydney look to have put their six-game winless run behind them, picking up four points in their last two matches, but it might be just a bit premature to say they are back to their promising early season form.
One thing is for sure though...the Sky Blues definitely possess the right character, coming from a goal down to beat the Gold Coast a fortnight ago before coming from two down to snatch a draw with Melbourne Victory on Australia Day. If they can sort out their starts, the wins should continue to flow.
Just how do you predict what the Jets are going to do from week to week? So lacklustre and unimaginative in their last few games, Gary van Egmond-s side pulled off one of the shocks of the season in beating Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium last weekend.
It-s a result that has Newcastle right back in top six calculations and if they can get a rare win over Sydney here, they will leapfrog their opponents into the top six. No more incentive needed for the Jets to perform again.
Match Committee: Sydney have lost two players to Australian Under-23 duty with Sebastian Ryall and Dimitri Petratos both away with Aurelio Vidmar-s squad. The Sky Blues will also still be without young midfielder Terry Antonis (hamstring), while Brett Emerton, who was forced off early against the Victory last week with a hamstring injury, is also out.
No major injury problems for the Jets although they do lose midfielder Ben Kantarovski to Australian Under-23 duty. Youngster Jacob Pepper or skipper Jobe Wheelhouse are the two most likely players to slot into his midfield position.
Danger men: Bruno Cazarine - Despite being in and out of the starting side this season, Cazarine is still Sydney-s best finisher and main man in front of goal. The Brazilian has popped up with vital goals in the last two games to take his tally for the season to six. Cazarine is a real handful in the air but also deserves more credit for his ability with the ball at his feet.
Jobe Wheelhouse - Wheelhouse missed a few games with injury recently and the Jets certainly felt his absence. He has taken on even greater responsibility since Kasey Wehrman-s omission and has relished it. Not known for his goalscoring ability, Wheelhouse is in a rich vein of form in front of goal, backing up his equaliser against Adelaide in Bathurst just over a week ago with the winner against the Roar last weekend.
At the end of the day… You could forgive Newcastle Jets fans - and some players even - for feeling a bit uneasy heading into this match. Although they are coming off a huge road win over champions Brisbane, the Jets face a side who are starting to get back to form and one they haven-t beaten in more than two years.
Still, heading into this weekend this encounter brings together the sixth-placed Sky Blues and the seventh-placed Jets. Van Egmond-s side will have no greater incentive to end their woeful record against Sydney than a place in the playoff spots come then end of the round.
Sydney have had a ten-day break since their last match so should come into this match feeling refreshed and confident after a good recent spell.
Much could depend on whether marquee man Brett Emerton can shrug off his hamstring strain. Already without four of their young stars through international duty and injury, the Sky Blues can ill-afford to be without the Socceroos winger as well.
While the Jets- problem continues to be their inability to score goals, they have started to shore things up again at the back in recent weeks which means this will be a tight encounter. There-s likely only going to be one goal in it and despite Sydney-s poor home record and without a few players, it should be the Sky Blues that edge this one.