Time – 5:35PM (Local) (5:35PM (AEDT))
Date – Saturday 1 April 2017
Venue – McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle, Australia
The Jets look to put a miserable March behind them when they host a Wanderers side looking to strengthen its grip on a Finals Series spot.
Can Newcastle rediscover some form and halt Western Sydney’s march?
The Jets are in a hole.
After shaping as a genuine Finals Series contender at the end of January, Mark Jones’ men have gone into free-fall, acquiring just two of the last 21 available points.
Their season reached a new low last Sunday when they were mauled 5-0 by an under-strength Phoenix in Wellington, meaning they’ve conceded 12 times in their last three games, while scoring just once themselves, and that from the penalty spot.
Any hope of finals football is now gone, but the Jets will be desperate to finish their season on a high and fend off Adelaide United and Central Coast in the battle to avoid the wooden spoon.
On the other hand, Western Sydney are one of the competition’s form sides. An unbeaten three-game run, including back-to-back 3-1 home wins, has seen them solidify their top six spot.
A continuation of their current form could even see them make a late charge for the top four, but they’ll need all three points here to keep those hopes alive.
Western Sydney have been shown four red cards when playing away this campaign, more than any other team in the competition.
Newcastle have scored nine of their 28 goals this season from outside the box, the highest percentage (32%) of any team in the competition.
The Wanderers are one of just two teams, along with Victory, to have more than one player contributing six assists or more so far this season (Mitch Nichols, 7 and Nicolas Martinez, 6).
The Jets haven’t scored a goal from open play in their last three games and need much more from their strike-force.
Imports Morten Nordstrand and Aleksandr Kokko were given a rare start together against Wellington, but failed to repay Jones’ faith. Ma Leilei may earn his first start in a month as a result.
Newcastle’s two Andrews – Nabbout and Hoole – have shown glimpses of true quality in their respective wide roles this season and on their day can causes serious headaches for any opposition defence.
In fact, Hoole has created more chances than any other player in the competition.
Brendon Santalab has been a revelation for Western Sydney in recent weeks, taking his season tally to 14 goals with a hat-trick against Melbourne City last Friday.
However, in a big blow for Tony Popovic, an eighth yellow card of the season in that game sees Santalab miss the trip to the Hunter Valley. In his absence, others will need to step up and assume the goal scoring mantle, with Nico Martinez and Mitch Nichols the obvious candidates.
Teenage striker Lachlan Scott may also get another chance to impress.
After three braces this season, evergreen Wanderers marksman Brendon Santalab netted his first A-League hat-trick to continue a purple patch of goal scoring form.
FORM LINES (last five games)
Newcastle Jets: LDLLL
Western Sydney Wanderers: WLDWW
Newcastle Jets 1 Western Sydney Wanderers 2
Newcastle Jets squad:
2.Daniel MULLEN, 3.Jason HOFFMAN, 4.Nigel BOOGAARD (c), 5.Ben KANTAROVSKI, 6.Steven UGARKOVIC, 7.Andrew HOOLE, 8.Mateo POLJAK, 9.Aleksandr KOKKO, 10.Wayne BROWN, 13.Ivan VUJICA, 15.Andrew NABBOUT, 16.Nicholas COWBURN, 18.MALeilei, 19.Morten NORDSTRAND, 20.Jack DUNCAN (gk), 22.Lachlan JACKSON, 29.Joel ALLWRIGHT, 50.Tomislav ARCABA (gk)
**two to be omitted**
5.Ben KANTAROVSKI (promoted), 8.Mateo POLJAK (promoted), 16.Nicholas COWBURN (returns from international duty)
28.Johnny KOUTROUMBIS (groin – 1-2 weeks)
1.Ben KENNEDY (gk) (achilles – season), 21.Daniel ALESSI (knee – season)
Western Sydney Wanderers FC squad:
1.Jerrad TYSON (gk), 2.Shannon COLE, 3.Jack CLISBY, 5.Brendan HAMILL, 6.Mitch NICHOLS, 8.DIMAS (c), 10.Nicolás MARTÍNEZ, 12.Scott NEVILLE, 14.Jumpei KUSUKAMI, 15.Kearyn BACCUS, 16.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 18.Robert CORNTHWAITE, 20.Vedran JANJETOVIC (gk), 22.Jonathan ASPROPOTAMITIS, 23.Lachlan SCOTT, 24.Terry ANTONIS, 29.Ryan GRIFFITHS, 49.Abraham MAJOK
**two to be omitted**
8.DIMAS (c) (returns from personal leave), 29.Ryan GRIFFITHS (promoted), 49.Abraham MAJOK (promoted)