NEWCASTLE Jets face Western Sydney Wanderers in Round 10 of the 2013-14 A-League season at Hunter Stadium on Saturday from 7.45pm (AEDT).
Played: 3, Wins: Newcastle 1, Wanderers 2 Draws: 0
Newcastle 0-3 Wanderers, March 29 2013
Past five matches:
Western Sydney Wanderers have never gone four games without a win since they joined the A-League last season. But on Saturday night, the reigning premiers will face that distinct possibility when they travel north to take on Newcastle.
The Jets are in fine form, having won four of their past five matches. Gary van Egmond's Newcastle side arguably confirmed their legitimacy when they bounced back from a loss to Sydney FC in Round 8 by knocking off Melbourne Victory 2-1 last week. The Jets return to Hunter Stadium this week after two straight games on the road and will look to maintain their unbeaten home record this season.For Tony Popovic and Western Sydney, a strong start to the season has given way to a stuttering past three weeks as they continue to struggle without lead striker Tomi Juric, who remains unavailable due to a foot injury. Newcastle could leapfrog the Wanderers into second on the A-League ladder if they defeat Western Sydney on Saturday.
The big issue:
Newcastle – The Jets seemed to lose their way a fortnight ago when Van Egmond handed Emile Heskey his first start of the 2013/14 campaign. With Heskey and Newcastle's leading goal-scorer Adam Taggart in the starting line-up, the Jets lacked a genuine link from midfield into the forward third and they lost 2-0 to Sydney. With Heskey back on the bench last week, Newcastle defeated Victory. How can Van Egmond best utilise Heskey? Saturday night's contest may indicate what the future holds for the Jets' marquee striker.
Wanderers – Since Juric went down with a foot injury in Round 5, Western Sydney have won once, lost once and drawn twice. The Wanderers have also scored just three goals in those four games. Despite missing the past four games, Juric remains Western Sydney's leading goal-scorer this season with three goals. Can the reigning premiers find another route to goal? As one of the least clinical and least accurate sides in the A-League, the stats are not on their side.
The game breaker:
Nathan Burns - It took him a while but the former Adelaide United forward finally got on the scoresheet last week, scoring twice in the Jets' win away to Victory. Burns missed a big chance versus Sydney and wasted a penalty against Brisbane Roar in Round 6 but showed the quality, which saw him sign for AEK Athens in 2008, at AAMI Park. Burns' speed, creativity and eye for goal will be critical to Newcastle's chances versus Western Sydney.
Prediction: Newcastle 2-1 Wanderers
Saturday night's match will be an interesting contest as neither team will necessarily need the ball. After a poor opening three weeks where they tried to control possession, Newcastle have focused on attacking on the break and now sit bottom of the league for passes, while the Wanderers have turned counter-attacking into an art form in their short existence. Due to their brilliant maiden A-League season, it is incredibly difficult to tip against the Wanderers. But the Jets are flying and with Juric absent, it is hard to see how Western Sydney can score enough to match Newcastle.