Newcastle threw away a golden opportunity last week to the upper hand in the battle for sixth position, this week they face much tougher opposition but on their home turf. Melbourne Victory is the opposition in question, making the trip to Newcastle directly after their disappointing 3-2 loss in Japan in the ACL midweek. The gruelling campaign is beginning to show signs of catching up with Muscat and his squad, something he must address with haste.
Poor finishing saw Victory share the points with an equally poor Sydney last week which could ultimately cost them a top two finish, and a week off to refresh a fatigued squad. Victory bypassed returning home to Melbourne because of their heavy schedule and will be relieved to hear the final whistle at the end of the 90 minutes.
Newcastle lose Caravella (most likely for the season) through a knee injury but regain Hoole and Pepper, whilst Victory welcome back the highly talented Tom Rogic, Nick Ansell and club stalwart Leigh Broxham. The inclusions are a key factor for Victory who will have been recently relying on a paper thin defence to see them through. The return of Rogic is an interesting one, reports of a groin injury have surfaced but many fans are concerned by his lack of passion and effort whilst in the Victory shirt. Personally the return of Rogic has been disappointing thus far and on current form he would struggle to make my Socceroos World Cup squad, lucky he is young and has potential though.
The game should be a free flowing attacking game with both teams keen to pick up the three points, Newcastle keen to keep the pressure on Sydney and Melbourne hoping to host a home final in a few weeks. A poor performance Newcastle and their season could be over, if Sydney manages to beat a heavily depleted Wellington.
The last time Newcastle played at home it resulted in a 5-0 win with both Bridges and Heskey finding the back of the net, fans will be hoping for a repeat. Let’s hope the standard of the pitch allows for a great game to develop.
Head to Head
Newcastle 12 Draw 5 Victory 9
Last Five Matches
Newcastle 1 drew with Victory 1 – Hunter Stadium (10/01/2014)
Victory 1 lost to Newcastle 2 – AAMIPark (08/12/2013)
Newcastle – Scott Neville, Mitch Cooper and Zenon Caravella All Knee, season)
Victory – Nil
NEWCASTLE 1.Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk), 4.Kew JALIENS, 5.Ben KANTAROVSKI, 7.Andrew HOOLE, 8.Ruben ZADKOVICH (c), 9.Emile HESKEY, 11.Craig GOODWIN, 14.Josh MITCHELL, 15.Josh BRILLANTE, 16.Jacob PEPPER, 19.Michael BRIDGES, 21.Sam GALLAWAY, 20.Ben KENNEDY (gk), 22.Adam TAGGART, 23.David CARNEY, 24.Mitch OXBORROW, 27.Nick WARD, 29.Joel GRIFFITHS
VICTORY 1.Nathan COE (gk), 2.Pablo CONTRERAS, 3.Adama TRAORE, 4.Nick ANSELL, 5.Mark MILLIGAN (C), 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Gui FINKLER, 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 13.Andrew NABBOUT, 14.James TROISI, 17.James JEGGO, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (gk), 21.Tom ROGIC, 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 23.Adrian LEIJER, 24.Scott GALLOWAY, 25.Jason GERIA
Adam Taggart – The Newcastle youngster appears to have the golden boot wrapped up but would love dearly to add to his tally and help his team secure a finals birth. His form this season has been outstanding and he could even be rewarded with a trip to Brazil in a few months. Taggart is only one option up front for Zane, with Heskey, Bridges and Griffiths all capable of giving the Victory defence a few headaches.
Archie Thompson – Unlike Taggart, Archie hasn’t found the back on the net on a regular basis this season. He instead has found a knack for attracting the linesman flag from any situation. I’m not sure if Archie has lost a lack of pace this season but his offside count would be one of the highest in the league. If I were Muscat I would tell Archie to work hard for the first hour, and possibly replace him with Rogic. Victory needs some type of attacking spark and Archie is capable of producing this.
- Adam Taggart has scored 47% of Newcastle’s goals this season
- Gui Finkler averages less than 50 minutes per game every time he plays for Victory
- Before kick-off fans are invited to join in a Round of applause for #RiseForAlex