Thursday, October 10, 2013
Sydney FC vs. Newcastle Jets
Head-to-head:* Played 26: Wins: Sydney 13, Newcastle 6, Draws: 7
Previous encounter:* Newcastle 2-2 Sydney FC, February 2, 2013
Form:* Past five matches: Sydney FC: DLLLL Jets: LWWWW
* The Game:* It's always difficult to judge how a team is heading into a new season on the back of results in the pre-season. While Sydney have travelled to Italy and Japan and performed strongly, their last few results haven't exactly filled their fans with confidence. Four straight defeats to A-League and NSW Premier League opposition is hardly ideal but coach Frank Farina will be judged on what happens from this point on. In contrast the Jets have produced some strong form and impressive results and head into the season-opener on the back of four consecutive wins. Sydney FC's squad has undertaken a bit of a revamp over the Australian winter and it will be interesting to see how quickly they can gel. Young attacker Corey Gameiro will miss the start of the season through injury, meaning much of the attacking impetus alongside Alessandro Del Piero will fall to the likes of Richard Garcia and Joel Chianese. Newcastle's main man Emile Heskey is also unavailable due to a knee injury picked up against Melbourne Victory in the pre-season, robbing the fans of another all-star match-up with Del Piero, that attracted more than 35,000 fans to Allianz Stadium roughly 12 months ago. Socceroos prospect Adam Taggart is set to lead the line in the former English International's absence.
* The big issue:* Sydney Most of the Sky Blues' problems last season centred around their porous defence, with the club conceding the most amount of goals in the league. It's no surprise coach Frank Farina has focused intently on fixing that problem, bringing in defenders Pedj Bojic, Matthew Jurman, Marc Warren, Nikola Petkovic to give Sydney a much more formidable look. If they can sure things up at the back, the Sky Blues certainly have the firepower at the other end to get results.
Jets Gary van Egmond has done a great job in blooding some exciting young talent in his second stint at the club. The likes of Connor Chapman, Andrew Hoole, Sam Gallaway, Josh Brillante, Ben Kantarovski and Adam Taggart have had a taste of the A-League and showed some promising signs. But the time has now come for this crop to deliver on a regular basis. There's no doubt the Jets youngsters have potential to dominate the competition but unless they can get some consistency in their play it could be another season without finals football for the club from the Hunter.
* The game breaker:* Alessandro Del Piero The Italian master was a clear standout for Sydney last season and will need to produce something similar if the Sky Blues are to make a play for the finals. It will be interesting to see if Del Piero can deliver like he did in the last campaign, with the prolific striker just a month shy of his 39th birthday. He should get some help this year with the additions of Nicky Carle and Richie Garcia to the squad. The Jets might want to think twice about giving needless fouls away anywhere near their box after Del Piero's stunning free-kick in the corresponding fixture last season.
* Prediction:* Sydney 2-1 Newcastle After a slow start to last season, the Sky Blues will be looking to hit the ground running, especially in front of their home fans. As Farina said this week the Sydney public don't expect success, they demand it. With a host of new faces it could take them a few weeks to hit their straps but that doesn't mean they still can't grind out results. In contrast the Jets look a lot more settled and can they can draw confidence from their strong run of results in the pre-season. The absence of Emile Heskey against a new-look Sydney defence is a blow and might just swing the tide in the home side's favour.