It’s a first ever appearance in the FFA Cup Round of 16 for the Newcastle Jets, who will travel south to face Melbourne City on Wednesday night.
With both sides still in the early stages of the pre-season, the clash at AAMI Park will act as a good gauge for both sides to see where they’re at.
Newcastle last met City in last year’s Hyundai A-League Semi Final at McDonald Jones Stadium, when the Jets won out and earned a place in the decider.
With the silky Ronny Vargas set to take to the pitch in a competitive match for the first time in the 2018/19 season, this is shaping to be an exciting clash.
The Jets played City four times throughout the Hyundai 2017/18 A-League season with one win, one draw, and two losses.
The highlight of those encounters was undoubtedly the 2-1 semi-final win over the Citizens at McDonald Jones Stadium, remembered most fondly for that Riley McGree scorpion kick which levelled things up.
There are a few players battling injury at this stage of the pre-season, who won’t feature on Wednesday night.
Ben Kantarovski is out, while Joey Champness remains on the long-term injury list.
Nick Cowburn is back from an injury he sustained in China, and will play a part. As will youngster Angus Thurgate, who upgraded and extended his contract with the club last Friday.
After watching from the sidelines in the Round of 32 win over Gold Coast Knights, Ronny Vargas is set to play his first match of the season.
With the way the Venezuelan has been training, not to mention his performance in the friendly clash with the Central Coast Mariners at Maitland on Saturday, he’ll be one to watch.
From the Coach
On the preparation
“We’re ahead of where we’ve been, where we were last season, and compared with other clubs I’ve been at we’re pretty well ahead because we didn’t have to sign 10, 13 players as we did last year,” Merrick said.
“We’ve retained the squad, we’ve brought them in early because we did two tours so we’re well prepared and we’re looking really good for this game against Melbourne City down there.
“It’s about progressing in the front third quickly, getting to the front third quickly, trying to shut the opposition team down in their defensive third. That’s the area where we’ll create chances and the area where we’ll win the ball back and have another chance.”
On Melbourne City
“Melbourne City are a good team, they’ve signed a lot of good up and coming players, one’s called Riley McGree that we know a lot about. Another one is Lachlan Wales [from the Mariners].
So they’ve got some good signings, plus they’ve got experience like Schenkeveld, so they’re a good team. [Bruno] Fornaroli is one of the best strikers in the league.”
On the FFA Cup
“It’s important for several reasons. You want to get off to a good start in the league, and having a good pre-season cup helps because of the high quality games. That’s why we appreciate playing another A-League team.
“We’re keen to do well in the FFA Cup, because it’d be the first time the club has done well in it and personally the first time I’ve done well in it. We want to do well and the players want to improve on what we did last year regarding consistency of performance and play in finals.”
3.Jason HOFFMAN, 4.Nigel BOOGAARD (c), 6.Steven UGARKOVIC, 7.Dimi PETRATOS, 10.Ronald VARGAS, 13.Ivan VUJICA, 17.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 18.Johnny KOUTROUMBIS, 19.Kosta PETRATOS, 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 22.Lachlan JACKSON, 23.Matt RIDENTON, 28.Pat LANGLOIS, 32.Angus THURGATE, 40.Noah JAMES (gk), 44.Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY
**one to be omitted**
Ins: 4.Nigel BOOGAARD (return from injury), 16.Nick COWBURN (return from injury)
Outs: 5.Ben KANTAROVSKI (calf – TBC), 24.Joseph CHAMPNESS (foot – TBC)
Unavailable: 9.Roy O’DONOVAN (suspension – 9 matches)