After a difficult off-season, Newcastle kick off their A-League campaign with an F3 Derby and Central Coast Mariners are wary of their hurting rivals.
Newcastle have been rocked by a turbulent off-season but Central Coast coach Alen Stajcic is wary of the Mariners' fierce rivals ahead of their A-League season opener.
Amid uncertainty over their future ownership, Newcastle lost coach Carl Robinson, and later forward Bernie Ibini, to Western Sydney.
With no replacement appointed, Craig Deans will take the reins at Central Coast Stadium on New Year's Eve.
"They've still got the squad they had last year - they're missing Dimi Petratos who's obviously been a key player for them for two or three years but I'm always wary of the wounded bull," Stajcic said.
"They've taken a few hits to their pride but when you've got players like (Nigel) Boogaard and (Nikolai) Topor-Stanley and (Roy) O'Donovan and (Steven) Ugarkovic and Jack Duncan in goals now, (Jason) Hoffman - it's just a team filled with so much experience.
"I think they'll be wanting to prove a point.
"So it's probably more to the advantage of the squad in uniting the squad and bringing them all together - the fact that they've just overcome so much adversity in their pre-season."
The Jets will be without Boogaard (suspension), Ben Kantarovski (calf) and John Koutroumbis (ankle).
Meanwhile Central Coast's new foreign signings - Polish attacker Michal Janota, Costa Rican striker Marcos Urena and Serbian midfielder Stefan Jankovic - are unavailable as they are all currently in hotel quarantine.
The Mariners haven't played finals since 2013-14 and are desperate to rise up the table, with key off-season arrival Oli Bozanic to lead the club.
"It's starting from the bottom and building from the bottom and it's always tough, it's always the heavy lifting," Stajcic said.
"But now a lot of our young players, this will be their second year and they've got a little bit of A-League experience under their belt.
"We've got Matt Simon, obviously, who's crucial from a leadership perspective in guiding these young players but then also to add someone like Oli Bozanic into the group has been a wonderful coup for our team.
"So those leaders along with (Mark) Birighitti and these youngsters coming through (are) a really good recipe for us to show some more improvement this year."
STATS THAT MATTER
* The Jets have lost just one of their past nine A-League games against the Mariners
* The Mariners are winless in their past eight A-League matches at Central Coast Stadium
* Jets striker Roy O'Donovan has had nine goal involvements (seven goals, two assists) against the Mariners - his joint-most against any team
Stats provided by Opta.