Newcastle Jets defender Daniel Mullen has labelled this Saturday’s Hyundai A-League clash away to his former side Western Sydney Wanderers as the biggest for the Novocastrians this campaign.
The Jets suffered a heavy 4-0 defeat away to Melbourne City last round to remain at the foot of the Hyundai A-League standings, but Mullen maintains that there remains a burning desire within the group to avoid finishing with the competition’s wooden spoon.
“I think so,” Mullen said when asked if Saturday’s match had become the biggest for the Club this season. “When you’re a young kid it doesn’t matter what sport you play, no one wants to finish last.”
“It’s no different for us … to get the wooden spoon is something that you look back on in your career and it can be a bit embarrassing.”
“For us as a playing group, as individuals and as a Club I think it’s important that we try and not finish last, and this week obviously with Western Sydney down the bottom as well it’s a massive game for us.”
Mullen was part of Western Sydney’s 2014 AFC Champions League winning squad, so the former Dalian Aerbin man understands better than most the rigours playing in Asia’s premier club competition can place on Australian teams.
Wanderers fought out a 0-0 stalemate against FC Seoul in Korea Republic on Wednesday night, and will only arrive back in Australia on Friday morning.
Mullen said the travel and extensive amount of games Tony Popovic’s team has had to endure recently could provide an advantage for the Jets at the weekend.
“Not many people realise that it’s not the actual games that’s the trouble with the ACL, it’s the travel,” he said. “They [Wanderers] were in Seoul, Korea, so they have at least another 12 hours on the plane, then all the stopovers, the different time zones, the lack of sleep.”
“It can be very challenging, especially when there’s a build up of games.”
“This was their third ACL game, so it gets harder each time and at the moment I think they are in a little bit of a difficult situation.”
Still, Mullen knows the Jets will still need to lift a couple of gears.
“Obviously we need to work better as a unit,” he said.
“I think we were strung out a little bit too much last week, we didn’t have enough pressure on the ball especially when they came into our half, so we’ll look to rectify that this week.”
“It’s important that we don’t give them time on the ball and don’t slow the pace down, because it we can play at a high intensity I think that will benefit us.”
“They are obviously going to be tired from the game that they’ve played and the travel as well, so if we can up the tempo and play at a good intensity I think that will be a good thing for us,” he concluded.
Newcastle Jets Squad vs. Western Sydney Wanderers: 2. Scott NEVILLE, 3. Taylor REGAN, 5. Ben KANTAROVSKI, 7. Enver ALIVODIĆ, 8. Zenon CARAVELLA, 10. Travis COOPER, 11. Andrew HOOLE, 12. Sam GALLAGHER, 13. Edson MONTAÑO, 16. Jacob PEPPER, 18. Allan WELSH, 19. Mitch COOPER, 20. Ben KENNEDY (Gk), 21. Daniel MULLEN (C), 22. Ki-je LEE, 25. Brandon LUNDY, 27. Radovan PAVICEVIC, 30. John SOLARI (Gk) *two to be omitted*
Ins: 3. Taylor REGAN (returns from injury), 10. Travis COOPER (promoted)
Unavailable: 1. Jess VANSTRATTAN (Gk) (knee – indefinite), 15. Joshua BARRESI (knee – season), 17. James VIRGILI (ankle – 4 weeks)
Match: Western Sydney Wanderers vs. Newcastle Jets – Hyundai A-League 2014/15 Round 22
Date: Saturday 21 March 2015
Venue: Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta
Television: Live on FOX SPORTS 505
Radio: Live on ABC Grandstand & 1233 ABC Newcastle
Twitter: Join the match conversation using #WSWvNEW @NewcastleJetsFC