What a mouth-watering start to the weekend of A-League action, with a quickly improving Western Sydney playing host to high-flying Newcastle. Josep Gombau’s teething problems at Wanderland are fast being forgotten, as his side has now strung together consecutive wins and is knocking on the door of the top four. More than that, it is Gombau’s recent recruits who are making a big difference with Marcelo Carrusca making quite the impression in midfield since switching from Melbourne City and Socceroo Chris Ikonomidis putting in a man-of-the-match performance on his Wanderers debut in last week’s 4-0 win over Wellington. But what, if any, impact will the return “home” to Spotless Stadium have on the Western Sydney momentum? The Wanderers have played just two games there so far this season, the last of which was on October 14. Newcastle, meanwhile, have had a week to freshen up after a convincing 2-0 win over Melbourne Victory. And with Melbourne City losing to Sydney FC in the first week of the split round, the Jets have the opportunity to move seven points clear of their nearest chasers in the race for a top two spot. This is going to be a tough one to split and a game where both sides would probably be happy to come away with a point.
Key stat: Newcastle smashed Western Sydney 4-0 when these teams last met on December 22.
His issues with his coach have been well documented but Oriol Riera is starting to find some form. The Spaniard netted the winner against Central Coast two weeks ago and then backed it up with the opener against Wellington last Sunday. With Carrusca and Ikonomidis around him for support, expect to see Spaniard Riera roar up the scoring charts in the final weeks of the season.
Key stat: Oriol Riera scored four goals in his first five league games before enduring a drought in the middle of the season. He is back in fine touch now with five in his last eight matches.