Preview: Melbourne Victory v Newcastle Jets

As well as the fact that former Victory players Ljubo Milicevic and Kaz Patafta are now in Jets colours, the team from the Hunter have also had one of the best overall records against the men in blue and white.

Date: Monday December 27
Kick-off: 6:00pm
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Television: Live and exclusive on Fox Sports 1 from 5:30pm (AEDT).
Radio: 774 ABC and
Live Match Centre:

Played 16: Melbourne Victory 4, Newcastle Jets 8, 4 draws

Previous Meeting
Newcastle Jets 0, Melbourne Victory 0, EnergyAustralia Stadium, September 2010

Why we don’t like ’em
As well as the fact that former Victory players Ljubo Milicevic and Kaz Patafta are now in Jets colours, the team from the Hunter have also had one of the best overall records against the men in blue and white.

Even in Victory’s championship campaigns Newcastle still managed to beat them twice in each season while Labinot Haliti made it an art form of scoring against Melbourne last season, getting himself on the scoresheet in all three games.

Past five matches:
Melbourne Victory:
Melbourne Victory 2, Perth Glory 0, AAMI Park
Melbourne Heart 1, Melbourne Victory 3, AAMI Park
Melbourne Victory 3, Brisbane Roar 3, AAMI Park
Wellington Phoenix 2, Melbourne Victory 2, Westpac Stadium
Melbourne Victory 2, Central Coast Mariners 2, AAMI Park

Newcastle Jets:
Wellington Phoenix 4, Newcastle Jets, Westpac Stadium
Newcastle Jets 2, Gold Coast United 0, EnergyAustralia Stadium
Melbourne Heart 0, Newcastle Jets 2, AAMI Park
North Queensland Fury 0, Newcastle Jets 2, Dairy Farmers Stadium
Newcastle Jets 1, Central Coast Mariners 1, EnergyAustralia Stadium

Decisions for Ernie
Last week’s win over the Glory came at a huge cost with Archie Thompson (hamstring), Matthew Kemp (groin) and Grant Brebner (suspension) to all miss while Carlos Hernandez also rolled his ankle but is expected to play. With four to be omitted from the extended squad, Victory have recalled Billy Celeski (suspension), Leigh Broxham (injury) and Petar Franjic.

Behind Enemy Lines
Milicevic, Kasey Wehrman and Jobe Wheelhouse, who was sent off just a few weeks ago against the Heart at AAMI Park, all return from suspension while Ruben Zadkovich is back from injury, with keeper Matthew Nash (groin) joining Neil Young (illness), Michael Bridges (knee), Jeremy Brockie (broken foot), Sean Rooney (knee) and Ben Kantarovski (knee) on the injured list.

Our Hero
Rody Vargas – Left out the week before, Vargas showed just how dangerous he can be at set pieces by getting his head to the ball first to all but seal the win over the Glory, putting the ball on a course with the back of the net that Todd Howarth desperately tried to keep out without managing to do so.

Danger Man
Labinot Haliti – Last season the Victory simply had no answer to Haliti but after getting the better of him earlier this campaign they’ll be desperate to ensure he doesn’t make it four goals in five outings against them.

Why we will win
Kruse will have to again assume most of the load in the front third of the pitch, with a little help from the likes of Hernandez and Marvin Angulo, and if his outings earlier this season before Thompson’s return are anything to go by, he can again be expected to deliver.

The Jets had found some hot form and gone seven matches unbeaten heading into last week’s trip to Wellington but with several players sidelined they crashed back to earth with a thud, crashing to a 3-0 deficit at the break en route to a 4-0 hiding and they’ll be smarting from that.

AAMI Park won’t hold any fears for Branko Culina’s men after they went a man down on their first visit a few weeks ago but proceeded to put two goals past Clint Bolton in just six minutes against the Heart and Ernie Merrick will have been working hard all week formulating plans to cover for the loss of Thompson, Kemp and Brebner.

Kruse has 10 goals to his name already this season but saw his buffer at the top of the scoring charts cut to one in recent days by Kosta Barbarouses and then Sergio van Dijk so he’ll be in just the sort of mood to stretch his lead again with Hernandez pulling the strings.

The burly Costa Rican has also looked threatening in recent days and while he and Kruse have lost Thompson from the dream trio, they have enough tricks still in the bag between them to make it three wins on the trot for the Victory.

Melbourne Victory: 1.Michael PETKOVIC (gk), 2. Kevin MUSCAT (c), 3. Mate DUGANDZIC, 4. Petar FRANJIC, 5. Surat SUKHA, 6. Leigh BROXHAM, 9. RICARDINHO, 11.Marvin ANGULO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 13. Diogo FERREIRA, 14. Billy CELESKI, 15. Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17. Matthew FOSCHINI, 19. Evan BERGER, 20. Sebastian MATTEI (gk), 21. Robbie KRUSE, 22. Geoff KELLAWAY 23. Adrian LEIJER

In: Billy CELESKI (suspended), Leigh BROXHAM (returns from injury), Petar FRANJIC (promoted)
Out: Archie THOMPSON (hamstring), Matthew KEMP (groin), Grant BREBNER (suspended)
Unavailable: Archie THOMPSON (hamstring), Matthew KEMP (groin), Grant BREBNER (suspended)

Newcastle Jets: 1. Ben KENNEDY (gk), 2. Taylor REGAN, 3. Adam D-APUZZO, 4. Nikolai TOPOR STANLEY, 5. Ljubo MILICEVIC, 7. Kasey WEHRMAN, 10. Ruben ZADKOVICH, 11. Tarek ELRICH, 12. Jobe WHEELHOUSE, 13. Sasho PETROVSKI, 14. Labinot HALITI, 17. Marcello FIORENTINI, 18. Marko JESIC, 19. Ali ABBAS, 22. Kaz PATAFTA, 24. Francis JEFFERS, 26. James VIRGILI, 27. Tomislav MISURA, 31. Jacob PEPPER
*four to be omitted, gk to be included*

In: Ljubo MILICEVIC (returns from suspension), Kasey WEHRMAN (returns from suspension), Jobe WHEELHOUSE (returns from suspension), Ruben ZADKOVICH (returns from injury)
Out: Matthew NASH (gk) (groin injury)
Unavailable: Neil YOUNG (illness – indefinite), Michael BRIDGES (knee – 6 weeks), Jeremy BROCKIE (broken foot – 6-8 weeks), Sean ROONEY (knee – season), Ben KANTAROVSKI (knee – season), Matthew NASH (groin – 2 to 3 weeks)