This Saturday afternoon (5pm AEDT) the Western Sydney Wanderers will return to Pirtek Stadium where they will take on the Newcastle Jets. Both clubs currently occupy the bottom two places of the league and remain the only teams left in the competition yet to taste a win. The recent Asian Champions League triumph now resembles a distant memory for Tony Popovic and co. when compared to the puzzling predicament his side now find themselves in. Meanwhile Jets manager Phil Stubbins will also have a point to prove at the weekend after his side were drubbed 4-0 by the Brisbane Roar in front of their own fans last week. Whichever side of the fence you sit on, this fixture is sure to be an entertaining and pivotal one for their respective season ambitions.
The Wanderers will face the Jets in what will be the second of four successive home games and, after the mid-week draw with Central Coast, it’s now or never if this club is to challenge for the finals places by the business end of the season.
Manager Tony Popovic will be glad to welcome captain Nikolai Topor-Stanley back into the team after the central defender was away on international duty for the Socceroos. But yet despite this, it is uncertain whether or not the former Jet will participate in this clash. Such is the improbability of Popovic fielding a line-up without a huge number of changes. As some fans have become disgruntled with the constant chop-and-change rotation policy implemented by the former Crystal Palace assistant manager, it would be hard to deny their point. How can consistency become apparent when each team sheet differs dramatically from the other? Nevertheless expect a near-capacity crowd at Wanderland come kick-off.
Newcastle on the other hand have had little to cheer about since Head Coach debutant Phil Stubbins took over the reigns in pre-season. Despite bringing in the likes of Marcos Flores, Billy Celeski, and Jeronimo Neumann the Hunter side have only achieved 2pts from a possible 18. Since the Jets’ unfortunate late loss to local rivals the Mariners back in the opening week of the competition, the capitulation of the club has only worsened.
Despite the critics, Marcos Flores in particular has voiced his opinions regarding the current status surrounding his new club and insists the results will come: starting with the Wanderers. The Argentine has fell flat since his debut season at Adelaide, failing to repeat his feats at both the Victory and Mariners respectively. He has not featured regularly for Newcastle as of late but it looks as though he will get his chance this weekend.
Phil Stubbins has had a difficult time digesting the difficulty of the A-League thus far, and while the fans have become irritated with their side’s recent displays, a result at Pirtek would ease a lot of the pressure. In fact, the last fixture played out at Parramatta between these two sides saw the Jets – then under Clayton Zane on interim basis – travel back down the F3 with a 2-0 victory. Who’s to rule out a similar outcome once more?
Both teams, once Premiers and Champions of the league in their own right, will be sure to attack relentlessly in a bid to claim the valuable 3pts on offer. Despite being beneath their opponents on the league standings it would hard to bet against a narrow Western Sydney victory in front of their home support. Even more so when taking into account the disappointing draw on Wednesday.
Eyes On… Tomi Juric
The striker endured a season marred by recurring injuries back in 2013/14 but was still able to bag eight goals and finish as the Wanderers’ top scorer. With his health seeming to be at a decent level, coupled with the injury to fellow forward Brendon Santalab, the Socceroo should lead the line yet again for his club come Saturday.
Often compared to Australian legend, Mark Viduka, Juric has regularly stepped up to the plate and delivered when called upon; and his first-leg finish in the Asian Champions League final is pure evidence of this.
This weekend’s clash of the cellar dwellers will once again serve as the stage for which Juric must perform. His job is to score the goals and if this 6foot 2inch target man is to be at his unstoppable best out at Wanderland, the Jets defence will be sure to have a difficult time containing him.
Played: 6. Western Sydney Wanderers: 3. Draw: 1. Newcastle Jets: 2.
Last Meeting: 2/3/14 at Pirtek Stadium. Western Sydney Wanderers 0-2 Newcastle Jets
Western Sydney Wanderers: LLLLD Newcastle Jets: DLLDL
Western Sydney Wanderers: Brendon Santalab (shoulder – indefinite), Golgol Mubrahtu (knee – indefinite).
Newcastle Jets: Sam Gallagher (omitted), James Virgilli (omitted), Josh Barresi (knee – season), Jonny Steele (leave of absence).
Western Sydney Wanderers: Covic; Adeleke; Topor-Stanley; Spiranovic; Cole; Poljak; La Rocca; Bridge; Castelen; Saba; Juric.
Newcastle Jets: Birighitti; Neville; Kantarovski; Jaliens; Gallaway; Carney; Celeski; Caravella; Flores; Neumann; Griffiths.
Western Sydney Wanderers 2-1 Newcastle Jets
Of the 6 matches played between these two sides, 4 have seen 3 or more goals decide the match. Judging this weekend’s fixture by this trend, expect goals.
Everybody enjoys a bit of physicality and determination to win a football match. But after assessing this fixture as a whole since Wanderers debuted, there have been a total of 2 red cards and 19 bookings handed out to various players. No love lost it seems.Google+