Preview: Newcastle Jets v Melbourne Victory

After last week’s 3-0 loss to Sydney, there is a strong desire from Melbourne Victory to bounce back to the winner’s circle in Sunday’s clash with Newcastle at EnergyAustralia Stadium.

Date: Sunday October 18
Kick-off: 3:00 pm AEST
Venue: EnergyAustralia Stadium, Newcastle
TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sports 1. To purchase tickets visit

13 Hyundai A-League meetings: Wins – Newcastle 7, Melbourne 3, Draws – 3

Last meeting
Melbourne Victory 1, Newcastle Jets 1, Round 5, September 2009

Past five matches:
Newcastle Jets:
Round 5: Melbourne Victory 1, Newcastle Jets 1, Etihad Stadium
Round 6: Newcastle Jets 0, Brisbane Roar 3, EnergyAustralia Stadium
Round 7: Sydney FC 2, Newcastle Jets 1, Sydney Football Stadium
Round 8: Newcastle Jets 0, Perth Glory 1, EnergyAustralia Stadium
Round 9: Adelaide United 1, Newcastle Jets 1, Hindmarsh Stadium

Melbourne Victory:
Round 6: Melbourne Victory 1, Wellington Phoenix 1, Etihad Stadium
Round 7: Adelaide United 0, Melbourne Victory 2, Hindmarsh Stadium
Round 8: Gold Coast United 2, Melbourne Victory 3, Skilled Park
Round 9: Melbourne Victory 2, Brisbane Roar 1, Etihad Stadium
Round 10: Melbourne Victory 0, Sydney FC 3, Etihad Stadium

Melbourne Victory was brought back to earth in last week’s game against Sydney. In a match where a win could have yielded a spot on top of the ladder, Victory was blown away by three goals in four minutes as it crashed to its first defeat in six weeks.

But there is a strong desire to bounce back to the winner’s circle in Sunday’s clash with Newcastle at EnergyAustralia Stadium, a venue where Melbourne has not won since 2006. Victory currently sits in fourth spot on the table, trailing ladder-leader Sydney by four points and a win is important in the club’s ambitions of keeping in touch with the top two.

Coach Ernie Merrick is adamant that last week’s defeat was an aberration and will not be making radical changes for this match. Tom Pondeljak will come in for the injured Robbie Kruse, while the coach is strongly considering Grant Brebner who played an excellent second half last week.

With Evan Berger ruled out, two of Nathan Elasi, Matthew Foschini and Mate Dugandzic will get a spot on the bench.

The significant addition for Melbourne from the last time these two teams played – a 1-1 draw at Etihad Stadium in Round 5 – is Carlos Hernandez. Hernandez has been one of Melbourne’s best players this season and should he put his best foot forward then the Jets defence is set for a busy night.

The absence of former Victory player Ljubo Milicevic, who has a heel injury, is a blow for the home side, which has gone five matches without a win. The draw in Melbourne was followed by losses against Brisbane, Sydney and Perth. Last start was a strong 1-1 draw against Adelaide, but that was 13 days ago.

There are two approaches you can take to having such a break. Either it will be good for the players, who can freshen up, or it may cost them some momentum. Although the way the enigmatic Jets play from week-to-week, momentum one way or another is rarely a concern.

Last time, it was Labinot Haliti who bobbed up to score the equaliser late on against Victory, and he will be again on the radar. As will newly-acquired striker Michael Bridges, who impressed in his first run with his new club against the Reds. But probably the two most important Newcastle players are skipper Matt Thompson, who scored a hat-trick against Victory last year, and full back Tarek Elrich, who sets up most of the Jets attacks from out wide.

Newcastle’s overall record over Melbourne is quite impressive having lost just one of the past nine clashes, albeit that was a 5-0 hammering early last season. The fact this match is played at the Jets home ground is also historically significant given Melbourne’s only victory at the ground came back in October 2006.

But history also reveals that Melbourne rarely loses two games in succession. The determination is there to ensure season 2009/10 stays on track and Merrick is confident he has the talent out on the park to return home with all three points.

Newcastle Jets squad: 1.Ben KENNEDY (gk), 2. Angelo COSTANZO, 3. Adam D-APUZZO, 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 6. Ben KANTAROVSKI, 7. Jin-Hyung SONG, 8. Matt THOMPSON (c), 9. Sasho PETROVSKI, 10. Donny DE GROOT, 11. Tarek ELRICH, 12. Jobe WHEELHOUSE, 14. Michael BRIDGES, 15. Sean ROONEY, 16. Jason HOFFMAN, 17. Fabio VIGNAROLI, 19. Jason NAIDOVSKI, 20. Neil YOUNG (gk), 22. Kaz PATAFTA, 25. Labinot HALITI, 26. Ali ABBAS
*five to be omitted*

In: Ben KANTAROVSKI (returns from international duty), Sean ROONEY (returns from international duty), Jason HOFFMAN (returns from international duty)

Out: Ljubo MILICEVIC (heel 1-2 weeks)

Unavailable: Shaun ONTONG (Achilles – indefinite), Marko JESIC (knee – indefinite)

Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (c), 3.Mate DUGANDZIC, 5.Surat SUKHA, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 13.Nathan ELASI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Matthew FOSCHINI, 19.Evan BERGER, 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 23.Adrian LEIJER
*two to be omitted*

In: Nathan ELASI (promoted), Matthew FOSCHINI (promoted), Mate DUGANDZIC (promoted)

Out: Robbie KRUSE (hamstring, 3 weeks)

Unavailable: Billy CELESKI (knee – season), Steven PACE (calf – 2 weeks), Mathew THEODORE (glute – 1 week), Nick WARD (infection – indefinite)