New Newcastle Jets defender Daniel Mullen knows 2015 AFC Asian Cup winning marksman Tomi Juric is one of the key men the Novocastrian outfit must stop if they’re to claim all three points from the club’s clash with Western Sydney Wanderers at Hunter Stadium on Saturday.
Mullen and Juric spent a year together at the red and blacks, and indeed were teammates when the side from Parramatta’s Pirtek Stadium won the 2014 AFC Champions League over Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal.
Mullen knows only too well the danger the livewire forward brings to the table, but believes Newcastle’s fresh central defensive partnership containing himself and Taylor Regan have the smarts and substance to thwart one of the Socceroos’ top talents.
“He’s one of those players that’s a handful,” Mullen said of Juric following Newcastle’s familiarisation session at Hunter Stadium on Friday.
“He’s [Juric] got everything. He’s a tall boy, he’s strong, he’s mobile as well. If you can keep him facing the other way then that’s the best thing.”
“When he turns it on he’s almost unstoppable, so it’s going to be important for us first and foremost to limit the delivery into him.”
“To do that we need to keep the pressure up high on their defenders and midfielders to limit the time that he has on the ball,” he said.
While it will be up to all the Jets players to suffocate Wanderers on Saturday, the direct responsibility of handling Juric, should he start, will primarily be down to Mullen and Regan.
Mullen believes the pair made a strong start to life as a defensive combination for the Jets, and noted that they’ve worked hard to further their understanding this week.
“Taylor and I have worked on communication and positioning [this week],” Mullen said. “It’s important to have a central pairing that understands each other and I felt that in our first game last week against Brisbane we had a pretty good understanding.”
“We have been doing a little bit of game-like training sessions so we [Mullen & Regan] can work on that, and it’s been good.”
Mullen said that despite having been a Wanderers player less than a month ago, he wouldn’t be approaching or treating Saturday’s contest any differently.
“Obviously leaving a club you want to do well against them,” he said. “But you can’t get carried away.”
“You have to treat every game the same [because] once you start treating games differently things can go wrong.”
“I’ve settled in here quite well and quite quickly as well, so I am just looking forward to getting out there.”
“Our preparation has been good, training has been good, it’s been intense.”
“The boys have been real positive, they’re ready to go.”
“The performance was good last week but the result wasn’t so we want to turn that around,” Mullen said.
Taylor Regan will skipper the Jets again on Saturday.
Saturday 14 February 2015
Hunter Stadium, Newcastle
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