In the two matches Melbourne City FC has played against Newcastle Jets this season, the performances couldn’t have been more polar.
Perhaps that’s why City’s John van’t Schip heads into Sunday’s showdown against Scott Millar’s side with a hint of trepidation, despite thef fact his team is marked as favourites against the ninth-ranked Jets.
With the first encounter of the season a forgettable one for City, with van’t Schip’s outfit surrendering a 2-0 half time lead to succumb 2-3 in a bizarre match at AAMI Park, City managed to demonstrate dramatic improvement in Round 10’s 4-0 win at Hunter Stadium.
For the reason of unpredictability, van’t Schip said his side would have to be at its best to ensure an important three points are collected on Sunday afternoon, with Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers now setting the A-League pace, five points ahead of City.
"If you don't approach every game in the right way or put in the effort you are going to struggle," van’t Schip said.
"[The Jets] have some refreshment in their team with [striker] Leonardo, with Morten Nordstrand [a former Danish international].
“They have Nigel Boogaard back which gives them stability at the back.
“We have to make sure that we’re on top and prepared because they will have a different energy to the last game we played there.”
After a dramatic 4-3 loss against league-leaders Western Sydney last Friday night, van’t Schip said focus had been on the team’s defensive structure as it continues to implement a high octane and entertaining 3-5-2 formation.
City will be without midfielders Erik Paartalu, who was released earlier in the week, signing with K-League outfit Jeonbuk, and Anthony Caceres, who received a one match band after collecting two cautions against the Wanderers.
Cover in City’s defensive midfield could come from either of Paulo Retre, Jacob Melling or Osama Malik, while in the back line, captain Patrick Kisnorbo appears to have recovered from his Achilles injury which saw him withdrawn after just four minutes into last week’s encounter.
Aaron Hughes’ diagnosis looks worse than originally thought, with the Northern Ireland international ruled out of a return on Sunday due to a calf complaint, sustained against Wellington Phoenix a fortnight ago.
New acquisition Alex Wilkinson, who was announced as City’s newest acquisition during a busy start to 2016 in the transfer market, will not be rushed into the squad, but van’t Schip believes the Socceroo will provide stability at the back for the remainder of the season.
“[Alex] will offer us more defensive stability with his experience,” van’t Schip said.
“Also because we have some issues with players who are not fit with Connor [Chapman] and Aaron Hughes, so that’s an extra body there.
“He’s played a massive amount of games in the last two years [for Jeonbuk Motors and the Socceroos] so I think this break he has had is only to benefit him to have a good fresh start mentally and physically.
“Now with the players almost all available — and we were struggling with that in the first part of the season — it’s about building the team even further and one of the things we want to improve, of course, is not conceding too many goals.