The Wanderers and Jets head to Campbelltown Stadium as part of the Hyundai A-League's regional fixtures with a victory vital for both sides for different reasons.
Date: Saturday, February 9, 2013 Kick-off: 7.45pm AEDT Venue: Campbelltown Stadium, Sydney
Head-to-head: Played: 1 - Wins: Wanderers 0, Jets 1, Draws 0
Previous encounter: Wanderers 1-2 Jets, November 10, 2012
Form: Past five matches: Wanderers: LWWWW Jets: DWDDD
The Game: The Wanderers and Jets head to Campbelltown Stadium as part of the Hyundai A-League's regional fixtures with a victory vital for both sides for different reasons. Tony Popovic's troops will be keen to keep in touch with the top two while Newcastle can give their finals hopes a massive boost with the three points here. B
oth teams come into the clash in solid form, with the Wanderers winning their last four games on the trot. The Jets are unbeaten in five games, but it should be noted that four of those matches have ended in draws.
After easily disposing of Adelaide 4-2 last weekend, Popovic may be reluctant to change a winning side but defenders Jerome Polenz (suspension) and Michael Beauchamp (injury) are both available again and will push for a starting berth. Shannon Cole and Iacopo La Rocca will be the two that would make way. The Jets also get a defender back, with Sam Gallaway to return after serving a one-game ban. Newcastle won the only other previous clash between the two sides, coming from a goal down to win 2-1 at Parramatta Stadium back in round six.
The big issue: Wanderers - There's not too much going wrong for the Wanderers who have lost just one of their last 10 matches. But the contract saga surrounding marquee man Shinji Ono is dragging on and will only prove a distraction the longer it goes unresolved. The Japanese midfielder reportedly wants to stay but has yet to agree to the club's new offer. With rival clubs both in the A-League and abroad circling, the sooner the Wanderers can finalise a deal the better for the hopes in the finals.
Jets - Newcastle coach Gary van Egmond has done a superb job in tightening up his side's defence since the turn of the year but they're now having trouble finding the back of the net. The club's two goals (both from the penalty spot) in the draw with Sydney FC last weekend made it just five goals scored in the past six games. Of more concern is the fact striker Emile Heskey has looked nowhere near as threatening as he did at the start of the season. The Jets will need to fix their struggles in front of goal if they are to keep the challengers at bay and remain in the top six.
The game breaker: Youssouf Hersi - The pacy winger had barely played a game in the two years before he joined the Wanderers but is making up for lost time in what's turning out to be a superb season for the Dutchman. It's not just his work-rate and silky skills which has caught the eye but Hersi is now adding goals to his game, scoring twice in the big win over Adelaide last weekend. With a new one-year contract extension now locked away, expect the 30-year-old to give the Jets defence headaches for the entire 90 minutes at Campbelltown.
Prediction: Wanderers 2-0 Jets While Newcastle were too good for the Wanderers in the two sides' previous clash, the A-League new-boys are a much stronger proposition this time around. All of Western Sydney's players are in form, confidence is sky-high and they have certainly found their touch in front of goal. After leaking too many goals earlier in the season, the Jets have plugged the holes at the back and will prove a stern challenge for the home side to break down. But with the likes of Hersi, Ono, Mark Bridge and Aaron Mooy at their best, the Wanderers should come out on top.