Newcastle Jets and Sydney FC will meet in Round 20 of the 2013-14 A-League season at Hunter Stadium on Saturday, February 22 at 5.30pm AEDT.
Played 28 - Wins: Newcastle Jets 6, Sydney FC 15, Draws: 7
Sydney FC 2 - 0 Newcastle Jets, November 30, 2013
Past five matches
Newcastle Jets: WLDLL
Sydney FC: WLLWL
Both sides come into this on the back of wins, although questions linger over whether those results are the real deal or flashes in the pan. For the Jets, you almost can't knock taking three points against the league leaders. But Newcastle's win over Brisbane is somewhat mitigated by the fact the Jets seem to be the Roar's bogey side. Prior to last week's result, Newcastle hadn't won in seven so one wonders how they'll go against other teams from here on in. Cast your mind back to this time last week as well and Sydney FC appeared to be about as well run as the St Kilda AFL club. Frank Farina was in the gun, the board was in the gun and the players were in the gun. But does a victory over Perth Glory – one achieved through Terry Antonis' spectacular strike – alleviate the concerns of last week? Not a chance. The Glory are struggling at the bottom end of the table and are about as effective away from home as Alex 'Chumpy' Pulin. But with Sydney having six of their remaining matches to be played in New South Wales, the Sky Blues know a run at the finals starts with this match, especially as the Jets are one of those sides competing for the bottom rungs of the top six.
The big issue:
For Sydney the issue is intensity. Frank Farina brought this up a few weeks back after the club's loss to Melbourne Heart, a result that came just a few days after the Sky Blues pummelled Melbourne Victory 5-0. Farina questioned why his players' intensity wasn't consistent within matches and from one game to another. Even against Perth, there were times when the intensity dropped and as a result that match was in the balance. But if Sydney bring their A-Game then the Jets will have to be wary.
For Newcastle, it's a similar proposition. Having won two games against the Roar before, it's hardly surprising they came out and with some confidence in their ability to do it a third time. But now they have to bring that confidence and intensity to each game as they look at a possible late run to the finals. The Jets are specialists when it comes to late runs at the top six. They've done it a few times before but to start this charge they have to beat Sydney and with just six wins against the Sky Blues to their name from 28 overall A-League clashes, history is somewhat against them.
The game breaker:
Ranko Despotovic is desperate to try and stay in the harbour city. The striker is looking at a new deal at the Sky Blues and getting one could be very much dependent on whether he helps Sydney make the finals. Throughout Sydney's week from hell last week, Despotovic spent some time practising his link-up work with Alessandro Del Piero. The end result, a classy through ball from the Italian champion to Despotovic for Sydney's first goal last week in what may be a taster for things to come.
Prediction: Newcastle Jets 0-2 Sydney FC
It's a battle of master and apprentice as rookie Newcastle coach Clayton Zane – fresh from his first win last week – takes on his old Socceroos boss Farina at Hunter Stadium. But I suspect Farina may take the honours here, although honestly there's not much logic to this suggestion. Between them, these side have won just five of a cumulative last 20 games, so tipping three points to the Sky Blues is fraught with danger. Yet, I feel the penny may have dropped for Sydney and with a good run – fixture wise – to the finals beckoning they may have more incentive and more in their armoury this time around.