Merrick issues warning on Jets potential

Adrian Warren
Newcastle Jets coach Ernie Merrick says his side is close to delivering on its A-League potential

Newcastle coach Ernie Merrick has sounded a warning to rival A-League clubs that the Jets are on the brink of hitting their straps, as they look to maintain their excellent recent record against Western Sydney.

Although placed in the bottom three, the Jets have played just five games, anywhere between one and three less than some of their rivals by the time they take to McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday evening.

Newcastle had their second bye last week after an away win over Western United.

They face a Wanderers side who are winless in three and have lost their last two after starting their campaign with three successive victories.

Newcastle are unbeaten in their past six against Western Sydney, winning all three of their clashes last season

Merrick wasn't paying any attention to those results and was wary of a side coming off back-to-back losses.

"They (Wanderers) are going through a little bit of trouble, so they will bounce back from that and they will be a tough team to play against," Merrick said on Friday.

""They play pretty open exciting football as well."

The Jets build-up play against Western United had veteran coach Merrick purring and bullish about his side's prospects as they strive to climb the table with their games in hand..

"Some of the inter passing I thought was some of the best I've seen in any team I've coached," Merrick said on Friday.

"Once we start finishing those off we'll be a really difficult team to handle, home or away, for any opposition team."

Merrick, who will have Bobby Burns, Abdiel Arroyo and Matt Ridenton back from international duty. said he may make one or two changes.

Jets' captain and central defender Nigel Boogaard will miss a third straight game with a groin injury.

Wanderers' coach Markus Babbel saw enough positives in his side's 3-2 loss to Melbourne City last week to be confident they could turn their fortunes around.

He wasn't underestimating the size of a task of beating a club he has yet to experience an A-League win against..

"Many strong fellows there, good size, experienced guys, so a tough game, but trust me it's up to us," Babbel said.

"If we can bring the best performance on the pitch, I believe we have the quality to win this game."

Central defender Matt Jurman has returned to the squad after missing two games with a groin injury.

However, German striker Alex Meier is in doubt after coming down with a bout of influenza.

Stats that matter

* Newcastle have won four and drawn two of their last six against Western Sydney, whose last league win against the Jets was in April 2017.

* Despite not trailing at halftime in any of their six matches in the 2019/20 A-League season, Western Sydney Wanderers are winless in their last three matches.

* There have been 25 goals scored in Newcastle Jets' last six A-League games against fellow New South Wales opposition.