ABC's Phil Dando will preview each round, each week for newcastlejets.com.au. Find out what he has to say about Round 2!
Season eight of the A-League certainly went off with a bang last week. A new record aggregate crowd for a round and television ratings up by over 50% shows that people were excited by the publicity garnered by the three big-name marquee signings.
On the field, most experts were left with egg on their faces! Who would have thought that not one of the three teams containing the star players wouldn't score a goal or even manage a win? Brisbane Roar, Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC, who were all touted as Championship favourites, all lost, as did the Jets, whose title hopes are also high after signing Emile Heskey. All will be desperate for a win this weekend as history suggests (if you can call seven seasons a history!) that it's just about impossible to lose your opening two games and go on to win the title. The only problem for those four teams is that they are paired off against one another this weekend!
The Jets travel to Sydney FC where a full house of over 40,000 is expected to see Alessandro Del Piero and Emile Heskey go head to head. Interestingly, and somewhat surprisingly, these two have never faced each other before. The nearest they got was an international friendly in 2000 and as Del Piero ran onto the field as a substitute for Italy in the 72nd minute, England's Heskey departed at the exact same time to be replaced by Kevin Phillips!
Del Piero's frustration with his teammates in last week's 2-0 loss at Wellington Phoenix was plain to see and it's understood that he has taken an active part in assisting coach Ian Crook with Sydney FC's plans for this week. I expect him to play a slightly more withdrawn role in the team, pulling the strings in midfield, with young speedster, Joel Chianese, playing as the front man. I would imagine that goalkeeper, Ivan Necevski, will have been working on cross balls in training this week, as he looked extremely shaky and if the Jets knock a few in early he may have one eye on big Heskey and they could profit.
The Jets got off to the worst possible start against Adelaide conceding a goal in just 58 seconds. That, the really strong wind blowing in their faces in the first half, a bit of early season new-boy nerves, the second half sending off of goalkeeper Mark Birighitti, and possibly being a bit star-struck all combined to make it a frustrating day for Newcastle Jets. Expect to see them improve in all areas as Heskey gets match fit and the players get used to getting the ball to him in the danger areas where he might be able to get free himself, play wall passes or get the third man running in. With neither team wanting to lose a second time, I'm tipping a really tight contest and a draw in this one!
The weekend's first game on Friday sees Adelaide return home to play the new boys Western Sydney Wanderers. New boys they may be, but there is plenty of A-League experience in their ranks and they'll be no easy beats as their draw last week with the Mariners showed. It's a bit early for predictions only one match into the season, but the signs are already looking good for Adelaide. Their new players have impressed and Dario Vidosic looks to be in the form that saw him become a Socceroo. Marquee signing, Shinji Ono, will probably come off the bench again for Wanderers, but the damage may already be done by then. I'm tipping Adelaide to win this one.
Two-time A-League winning coach Ange Postecoglou takes his new team, Melbourne Victory, to play his old team Brisbane Roar where he'll pit wits against his former assistant coach, Rado Vidosic (father of Dario), for the first time. Postecoglou has a style and philosophy about the game that is unshakeable, however at this level it is mainly about results, and if his team give the ball away at the back as much as they did last week they'll get murdered! Roar have not lost in their last five against the Victory and were unlucky not to get something from the long trip to Perth last weekend. I reckon a big crowd will see them win this one.
Wellington Phoenix, so impressive against Sydney last week, travel to an equally impressive Melbourne Heart. The Heart should be rubbing their hands about this one, as they catch Phoenix at a great time. Phoenix have six players and coach Ricki Herbert away on World Cup duty in Tahiti, and therefore I'm in no doubt that Heart should make it two from two in this one.
The last game of the weekend sees last year's Premier Plate winners, Central Coast Mariners host Perth Glory. These teams met in last seasons grand final qualifier, with the Glory edging the Mariners on penalties. However, the Glory have only beaten the Mariners 3 times in 22 attempts and have never beaten them at Bluetongue. Not renowned as being the best of travellers, for obvious reasons, Perth are missing the services of super striker, Shane Smeltz who is also away on NZ World Cup duty. For those reasons I'm tipping the Mariners to get their first win of the season.
Tune into ABC Newcastle 1233 to hear Aaron Kearney and Phil Dando's call of the Jets' game each week.