Preview: A crucial top-six clash


A lot of the attention has been on next Tuesday’s AFC Champions League match, but there’s a massive Hyundai A-League clash in the meantime.

For the Jets top-six hopes, this game could potentially be make-or-break.

The gap is currently at eight points between the Jets in seventh and Wellington in sixth, so a Newcastle win on Thursday night would trim the difference to just five points.

SQUAD: Ernie’s 18 for Thursday

And with the sides in fourth and fifth, Melbourne City and Adelaide United respectively, to come, everything is up for grabs.

Newcastle come into this after launching themselves back into form last Friday night in Western Sydney, putting five past the Wanderers in a 5-1 win.

Roy O'Donovan Western Sydney Wanderers

That goal-scoring form will give the boys immense confidence, and given the Phoenix have been in good nick in front of goal this season that may be the difference.

While it’s been a good season overall for Wellington, a 3-0 defeat in Perth last Saturday night would have been a shock to the system.

Key central defence pairing Andrew Durante and Steven Taylor were rested in that outing, and are likely to return against the Jets on Thursday.

Team news

If no news is good news, then the Jets are in good stead ahead of the Round 18 fixture.

Injuries and suspension look to have largely avoided Newcastle, and there’s every chance the same starting XI could play.

On the flip side, there has been a bit of noise around the back injury with which Dimi Petratos is currently struggling.

If he is forced to sit out, the door is open for the likes of Jair or Kaine Sheppard to jump into the starting side and make things happen.

Kaine Sheppard Wellington Phoenix

From the veteran

“I’m extremely proud to play 200 matches in the A-League, and to represent my home town Club at the home stadium here will be fantastic,” Jason Hoffman said.

“This is going to be a match that isn’t quite all-or-nothing, but it will be extremely important to keep in touch with the top six. We’ve got a gameplan, and we’re going to do our best to not only win this match but to kick on for the rest of the season.

“It’s extremely important, being at home. In our last six matches, we have barely been at home, so it’s great to not only have this match at home but the stretch of games at home coming up, including the AFC Champions League match.

“It’s a great opportunity to use the home crowd to our advantage. We’re accustomed to playing here, and for us it’s about making sure we prepare properly and use that to our advantage.”