Bruno Fornaroli kicks for a penalty goal against Newcastle Jets in March.
By TAS MAVRIDIS
Newcastle secured passage directly to the semi-final after finishing second on the A-League table, in their first finals appearance in eight years.
Melbourne City progressed to the semi-finals after recording a 2-0 win in their elimination final over the Brisbane Roar and will be confident of progressing to their first Grand Final after defeating Newcastle on their home turf twice over the 2017-18 season.
There is some big selection news on both sides of the tie which is sure to have a significant impact on the final result.
The Jets welcome back skipper Nigel Boogaard who will slot into central defence, as well as livewire forward Ronald Vargas who is on the road back from an injury sustained early in the season.
On the other hand, City skipper Michael Jakobsen has once again been ruled out with a quad injury after missing the elimination final, leaving Osama Malik to again deputise in the centre of defence for City.
Last time they met
Round 25: Newcastle 0 Melbourne City 3 at McDonalds Jones Stadium, Newcastle
Melbourne City recorded a dominant win last time around, with Bruno Fornaroli opening the scoring just before half time and Dario Vidosic sealing the result with a second half brace.
Fornaroli has since maintained his strong goal scoring form, netting in five games out of his past six, while Vidosic’s impressive performance in this match highlighted the offensive threat City can pose.
Nigel Boogaard returns to the Jets after being injured in early March.
City are unlikely to make changes to the side that won the elimination final, with the likes of Vidosic, Oliver Bozanic, Daniel Arzani and Stefan Mauk to support Fornaroli from deeper positions.
Bruce Kamau’s return to the matchday squad will provide another potential attacking option for Warren Joyce, most likely off the bench.
The Jets reasserted their attacking credentials with an 8-2 win against local rivals Central Coast in the final round of the regular season, and will have a full array of forwards to choose from between Roy O’Donovan, Dimitri Petratos, Pato Rodriguez and Ronald Vargas.
The return of Nigel Boogaard as defensive partner for Nikolai Topor-Stanley will help shore up the Jets’ defence.
Jets manager Ernie Merrick has shifted between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-1-2-1-2 formation in the last few weeks, highlighting his capacity to make adjustments in the attacking third of the field which could prove an advantage against a transient City defence.
Key player match-ups
Dimi Petratos v Luke Brattan
It has been a remarkable campaign for Dimi Petratos, with his form this season rewarded with a Socceroos call up in March.
The loss of Andrew Nabbout to Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds has seen Petratos’ importance only grow, with his assists vital in setting up striker O’Donovan.
Further, his ability to get into goal scoring positions from range as well as slot free kicks means City’s central midfielder Luke Brattan will have a tough job on his hands.
Unlike last week, Brattan will come up against a more energetic forward line with Petratos a vital cog in opening City’s defence up.
Luke Brattan of City FC in a training session yesterday.
Nigel Boogaard v Bruno Fornaroli
Boogaard’s return is timely for the Jets but he will have the job of shutting down an in-form Fornaroli.
The Uruguayan has scored five goals since Round 22, signalling the danger he will pose to the hosts.
Boogaard has not played since Round 22, meaning he could potentially have some fitness issues for Fornaroli to exploit.
Melbourne City are the more in-form side, with the Jets having a poor run of form up until their 8-2 win in the final round of the season. Melbourne City 2-1 after extra time.