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Preview: Sydney FC vs Newcastle Jets – 4/12/21

Season Preview

A-League Men’s Round 3: Sydney FC vs Newcastle Jets

Date: Saturday, 4th December

Kick-off: 7:45 pm

Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Kogarah

How to Watch: Paramount+

Last time they met: Sydney FC 1 (N. Boogaard O.G. 76’) Newcastle 1 (R. O’Donovan 59’) at McDonald Jones Stadium, 8/5/21

Click here to discuss the game on the SFCU forum.

Flick the switch. Push the panic button. That’s the urge right now, after three unconvincing performances full of frustration.

Some were already anxious about an ageing squad playing over-familiar football. For others, Luke Brattan’s ACL was the last, tragic straw. But the dire loss last weekend, when Macarthur suffocated the Sky Blues into a cold, windy submission, escaped no one.

Anxiety has switched to anger. And fear – at least in the stands. Time will tell if it’s infected the squad. But something, undeniably, just isn’t working right now.

Our best players aren’t playing their best. Adam Le Fondre’s showing more cutting edge in his expression than his boots. Adrian Caceres has been a tidy fulcrum without fashioning many chances. When did Rhyan Grant last dominate a right flank? Even Alex Wilkinson lost a man for a goal. And maybe – just maybe – Milos Ninkovic is showing his age, unable to shake markers and shape space the way he once could.

Are Sydney FC in danger of becoming average? Or even worse – are we already?

It’s far too early to tell. After two rounds, the table doesn’t lie – it just says bugger all. If we lose on Saturday, though … the pressure builds to flick a switch.

In some years past, the Newcastle Jets at home would be an appealing fixture to search for it, particularly a Jets side coming from a loss to the Mariners and a draw to Western Sydney, and one that the Sky Blues pasted 5-nil in a pre-season friendly.

Those who’ve watched Newcastle play know better. The Jets, steered by Arthur Papas, look on the up. Sure, they’ve shipped four goals in two games and survived some big moments against the Wanderers as the game careered towards a crazy draw. But the Jets play with intent: happy to pass around the press, or spot a gap and attack it directly.

Valentino Yuel has found some form, and Beka Mikeltadze is finding his way quite nicely in the A League. The Jets can be put under pressure, but they don’t really look like collapsing, despite playing a new system and integrating new defenders such as Kosta Gross, who got caught in possession and gave up a goal on the weekend. The Jets, for all their faults, look like a team that can make a chance – or flick a switch.

Sydney’s side is less clear. The chief mystery remains the fitness of attackers Bobo and Kosta Barbarouses. Steve Corica has named Barbarouses as a chance, along with centre back James Donachie. Ben Warland hasn’t been fantastic, but would be hardly the man to deserve being dropped.

The defence then should remain Redmayne, Grant, Wilkinson, Warland and King. The biggest puzzle is the midfield, where Corica would likely pick Barbarouses, Retre, Caceres and Ninkovic. If Kosta comes off the bench, then either Elvis Kamsoba, or the people’s choice, Max Burgess, will get the nod.

The front line provides the most compelling case for change. Trent Buhagiar has looked less decisive and incisive than Patrick Wood, and if Corica fancies a switch, this looks likely.

Both teams are playing to find themselves and kickstart their season. Sydney FC have a settled system, came second last year, and are at home. The Jets are bedding in a new coach, new squad and new style, and came second last. Sydney should be favourites. But Jets fans have the greater hold on hope for the future.

What does the squad think? What does Corica think? Come Saturday, let’s hope we find out.

Squads will be posted as they are announced.

Since: 2005
Played: 49
Jets: 9
Sydney FC: 29
Draw: 11

Click here to discuss the game on the SFCU forum.