Finally, after six months without a Hyundai A-League match in Newcastle, the Jets are back.
McDonald Jones Stadium will be heaving for Round 3, and it’ll be the seventh time we’ve played this weekend’s opponents – Melbourne Victory – on a Saturday night in Newcastle.
It’s a big chance for the Jets to pick up their first win of the Hyundai A-League campaign, after picking up a point on the road last Friday night in Adelaide.
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Dimi Petratos and Ronnie Vargas again looked threatening in that match while Jair, who rates his fitness at about 80%, could be set to shine on home soil.
Meanwhile, Victory are anchored to the bottom of the ladder at this early stage, without a point in their opening two matches against City and Perth.
With Swedish striker Ola Toivonen not in the squad for Saturday night’s match, the Jets will have have to keep an eye on the talents of Japanese superstar Keisuke Honda.
With a week’s training back home at Ray Watt Oval, the boys are looking fitter than ever.
There were two big ins for the Jets when the squads were announced on Thursday: Angus Thurgate and Ivan Vujica are back.
Thurgate has kept fit with the Young Socceroos in Indonesia, starting every match for his country at the AFC U-19 Championships.
Vujica could give boss, Ernie Merrick some more options in defence and the fullback has been stating his case to return to the match day squad.
After coming off the bench in last weekend’s draw with Adelaide, Ben Kantarovski will also be pushing for his first appearance in the starting XI come Saturday night.
From the boss
On this weekend
“We are really keen to play in front of a home crowd, and to play against Victory… I think the big games are the best games. The teams at the top of the league play open football, it’s pretty exciting, end-to-end stuff, and it’s the type of football we prefer.
“The last two games have been really counter-attacking type games, the game in Wellington, thanks to the referee’s decision for which he later apologised, but didn’t help us.
“In Adelaide, we played pretty well and got a point so we’re pretty keen to take all three from a side that took the grand final from us.
On looking forward from the Grand Final loss
“I don’t focus on it at all actually, we haven’t thought about any of last year’s games. The season is done with, the teams are new, we’ve got some fresh faces and we play, I think, a better style and type of game that we wanted to play last season.
“We’ve retained most of the players, and we’re taking the next step, and our focus is on being consistent over 27 weeks, rounds, and I’m not overly concerned emotionally involved with one particular match.
“Let’s play good football, better football, defend well, counter-attack when we need to, play open, create goal-scoring chances, and the boys have been terrific throughout the pre-season at doing that."
On a fit Ronnie Vargas
“He has been outstanding as a player and as a person, and as a leader on-field. I think, he tells me he’s going to score 15 goals this year, and he said I’ve got to buy him dinner when he does.
“When he gets up to 14, I’ll have to sub him off every time he gets near the goals. I’m Scottish, I’m not overdoing it!
"He’s been terrific. Up front, he’s a great player and person and I expect him to be in the mix big-time. As long as the referees protect him, and don’t allow the defensive players from other teams to kick him as much as he got kicked at the beginning of last season."