Preview: Sydney FC v Newcastle Jets

The last couple of weeks have not been kind to both Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets after a fairly solid start in the opening four rounds that had them in the top three on the table.

Date: Sunday September 20 Kick-off: 3.00pm (AEST) Venue: Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 1. To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.com.au

Head-to-head Played 14: Wins: Sydney FC 7, Newcastle 2; Draws: 5

Previous meeting Sydney FC 4 Newcastle Jets 0, Round 21, January 2009

Season so far: Sydney FC: Round 1: North Queensland Fury 2, Sydney FC 3, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 2: Sydney FC 1, Adelaide United 0, Sydney Football Stadium Round 3: Central Coast Mariners 0, Sydney FC 0, Bluetongue Stadium Round 4: Sydney FC 2, Wellington Phoenix 0, Sydney Football Stadium Round 5: Gold Coast United 2, Sydney FC 1, Skilled Stadium Round 6: Sydney FC 0, North Queensland 1, Sydney Football Stadium

Newcastle Jets: Round 1: Newcastle Jets 3, Wellington Phoenix 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 2: Central Coast Mariners 1, Newcastle Jets 1, Bluetongue Stadium Round 3: Perth Glory 2, Newcastle Jets 0, ME Bank Stadium Round 4: Newcastle Jets 1, Gold Coast United 0, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 5: Melbourne Victory 1, Newcastle Jets 1, Etihad Stadium Round 6: Newcastle Jets 0, Brisbane Roar 3, EnergyAustralia Stadium

Analysis: The last couple of weeks have not been kind to both Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets after a fairly solid start in the opening four rounds that had them in the top three on the table. Between them they have managed a solitary point from there last two games each, with Newcastle scraping a 1-1 draw against Melbourne.

Sydney's past two weeks have been pretty ordinary, especially last weekend's lacklustre showing against bottom-placed North Queensland Fury. While it's not exactly panic stations just yet for coach Viteslav Lavicka, he will be looking to see how his troops respond to the loss against Fury and Gold Coast the weekend before. In both games they were outplayed by the newcomers and really lacked a cutting edge when going forward.

Not helping Lavicka's cause for the next month will be the absence of several young stars, including fan-favourite Kofi Danning, plus Rhyan Grant and Matthew Jurman to the Qantas Young Socceroos (Under 20's) who will be playing at the FIFA World Youth Cup in Egypt.

Lavicka has indicated during the week that changes are likely to be made, even hinting that senior players John Aloisi and Steve Corica might be watching from the bench when the game kicks off on Sunday.

Stu Musialik and Sebastian Ryall might be the biggest beneficiaries if Lavicka does make changes, with gifted midfielder Musialik having to frustratingly bide his time for even a place on the bench this season. Many good judges regard Musialik as the best distributor of the ball in the league and that is what Sydney needs most at the moment, especially in the final third.

The inclusion of former Australian Under 20 captain Ryall, might come at the expense of Shannon Cole, whose form has dipped, while Mark Bridge will be itching to get a start again after being dropped to the bench for last week's game.

It's hard to believe the Jets beat runaway leaders Gold Coast United in Round 4, with a terrific defensive performance where they kept leading goalscorer Shane Smeltz very quiet. Last Saturday however they were absolutely cut to shreds by Brisbane Roar, with the defence unable to cope with the power and precision of the Roar's international attackers.

The Jets squad is also looking decidedly thin and like Sydney, they have lost three key players to the Qantas Young Socceroos in Jason Hoffman, Sean Rooney and Ben Kantarovski. Injury to Donny De Groot (knee) and the continued absence of Jobe Wheelhouse and Shaun Ontong means that coach Branko Culina only has about 15 or 16 of his first team squad to choose from.

Labinot Haliti and Jason Naidovski will fight it out for Hoffman's spot, while Culina may consider the experience of Angelo Costanzo to shore up the defence after its dismal showing last Saturday.

A result is critical for both teams in this game, even if it's just to get some confidence back. One would have to favour Sydney in this game, given it has never been beaten by the Jets at this venue and won four of their past seven meetings. There will be no love lost here and Culina would like nothing better than to take all three points against his former team after his bitter axing during season 3, although they would need to improve significantly for that to happen.

Sydney FC squad: 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 2. Sebastian RYALL, 3. Stephan KELLER, 4. Simon COLOSIMO, 6. Karol KISEL, 7. Brendan GAN, 8. Stuart MUSIALIK, 9. John ALOISI, 10. Steve CORICA (c), 12. Shannon COLE, 13. Antony GOLEC, 14. Alex BROSQUE, 16. Chris PAYNE, 18. Adam CASEY, 19. Mark BRIDGE, 20. Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 22. Sung Hwan BYUN. *two to be omitted*

In: Sebastian RYALL (promoted), Stuart MUSIALIK (promoted), Antony GOLEC (promoted from NYL), Chris PAYNE (promoted from NYL), Adam CASEY (promoted from NYL)

Out: Kofi DANNING (international duty), Matthew JURMAN (international duty), Rhyan GRANT (international duty)

Unavailable: 5. Mitchell PRENTICE (back - 1 week), 15. Terry MCFLYNN (thigh - 2 weeks).

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, 11. Tarek ELRICH, 17. Fabio VIGNAROLI, 19. Jason NAIDOVSKI, 20. Neil YOUNG (gk), 22. Kaz PATAFTA, 24. Chris TRIANTIS, 25. Labinot HALITI

In: Chris TRIANTIS (promoted)

Out: Jason HOFFMAN (international duty)

Unavailable: Ben KANTAROVSKI (international duty), Donny DE GROOT (knee - 1 week), Jobe WHEELHOUSE (ankle - 1 week), Shaun ONTONG (Achilles - indefinite), Sean ROONEY (international duty), Marko JESIC (knee - indefinite)