Newcastle Jets will look to put a miserable March behind them when they host Western Sydney Wanderers, who are hoping to charge up the A-League table.
Newcastle Jets squad: 2.Daniel MULLEN, 3.Jason HOFFMAN, 4.Nigel BOOGAARD (c), 5.Ben KANTAROVSKI, 6.Steven UGARKOVIC, 7.Andrew HOOLE, 8.Mateo POLJAK, 9.Aleksandr KOKKO, 10.Wayne BROWN, 13.Ivan VUJICA, 15.Andrew NABBOUT, 16.Nicholas COWBURN,18.MALeilei, 19.Morten NORDSTRAND, 20.Jack DUNCAN (gk), 22.Lachlan JACKSON, 29.Joel ALLWRIGHT, 50.Tomislav ARCABA (gk) **two to be omitted**
Ins: 5.Ben KANTAROVSKI (promoted), 8.Mateo POLJAK (promoted), 16.Nicholas COWBURN (returns from international duty)
Outs: 28.Johnny KOUTROUMBIS (groin – 1-2 weeks)
Unavailable: 1.Ben KENNEDY (gk) (achilles – season), 21.Daniel ALESSI (knee – season)
Western Sydney Wanderers squad: 1.Jerrad TYSON (gk), 2.Shannon COLE, 3.Jack CLISBY, 5.Brendan HAMILL, 6.Mitch NICHOLS, 8.DIMAS (c), 10.Nicolás MARTÍNEZ, 12.Scott NEVILLE, 14.Jumpei KUSUKAMI, 15.Kearyn BACCUS, 16.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 18.Robert CORNTHWAITE, 20.Vedran JANJETOVIC (gk), 22.Jonathan ASPROPOTAMITIS, 23.Lachlan SCOTT, 24.Terry ANTONIS, 29.Ryan GRIFFITHS, 49.Abraham MAJOK **two to be omitted**
Ins: 8.DIMAS (c) (returns from personal leave), 29.Ryan GRIFFITHS (promoted), 49.Abraham MAJOK (promoted)
Outs: 11.Brendon SANTALAB (suspended – 1 match)
Unavailable: Jacob MELLING (back – indefinite)
The Jets are in a hole.
After shaping as a genuine finals contender at the end of January, Mark Jones' Newcastle have gone into free-fall, acquiring just two of the last 21 available points.
Their season reached a new low last Sunday when they were mauled 5-0 by an under-strength Wellington Phoenix, meaning they've conceded 12 times in their last three games, while scoring just once themselves, and that from the penalty spot.
Any hope of finals football is now effectively gone, but the Jets will be desperate to finish their season on a high and fend off Adelaide United and Central Coast in the battle to avoid the wooden spoon.
On the other hand, Western Sydney are one of the competition's form sides.
An unbeaten three-game run, including back-to-back 3-1 home wins, has seen them solidify their top six spot.
A continuation of their current form could even see them make a late charge for the top four, but they'll need all three points here to keep those hopes alive.
The Wanderers have suffered a blow for Saturday's match, however, with in-form striker Brendon Santalab - who scored a hat-trick in last week's 3-1 win over Melbourne City - out through suspension.
The visitors regain the services of captain Dimas though, while strikers Ryan Griffiths and Abraham Majok have also been included in Tony Popovic's squad.
Newcastle have lost promising centre-back Johnny Koutroumbis to a groin injury but welcome back full-back Nicholas Cowburn, who was away with an Australian development squad during the international window.
ROUTE TO GOAL
The Jets haven't scored a goal from open play in their last three games and need much more from their strike-force.
Imports Morten Nordstrand and Aleksandr Kokko were given a rare start together against Wellington, but failed to repay Jones' faith.
Ma Leilei may earn his first start in a month as a result.
Santalab has been a revelation for Western Sydney in recent weeks, taking his season tally to 14 goals, but will be unavailable after picking up his eighth yellow card of the season versus City.
In his absence, others will need to step up and assume the goal-scoring mantle, with attacking midfielder Nico Martinez (4 goals) the obvious candidate.
Teenage striker Lachlan Scott (3 goals in all competitions) may also get another chance to impress, while Griffiths and Majok are outsiders to start up front.
WHO'S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK
Jason Hoffman. The Jets full-back scored an unfortunate own goal against the Phoenix last week, exemplifying what was a dreadful display by Newcastle.
FORM LINES (all competitions)
Newcastle Jets: LDLLL
Western Sydney Wanderers: LDWWW
Newcastle Jets 0-2 Western Sydney Wanderers