A-League Season Opener

Picture: Mark Evans/news.com.au
Alessandro Del Piero returns for another season with Sydney FC. Picture: Mark Evans/news.com.au
The 2013/14 A-League season gets underway at Allianz Stadium on Friday night, with a depleted Sydney FC  outfit hosting the Newcastle Jets . Although it is regarded as one of the ‘glamour’ clubs in the competition, the Sky Blues have hardly set the world on fire during the pre-season and goes into the opening round of the new campaign having lost all four friendly matches since returning from a pre-season tour of Japan and Italy. The Jets on the other hand rounded out their preparations for the new campaign with three consecutive victories, conceding just one goal in the process.

A host of first choice players are unavailable for Sydney FC this weekend, with Brett Emerton (back), Terry McFlynn (groin) and Corey Gamerio (knee) all injured and Yairo Yau on international duty with Panama. Marquee player Alessandro Del Piero  is likely to be joined in attack by youngster Joel Chianese  with Gamerio and Yau out, while former Hull City and Melbourne Heart star Richard Garcia  will make his competitive debut for the club.

While the Sky Blues are without a host of players for this clash, it is the absence of Jets striker Emile Heskey that is likely to have the biggest bearing on the outcome of the match. The former England international played 23 matches for Newcastle last season and scored almost a third of his side’s goals after finding the back of the net on nine occasions but will be sidelined for another three to four weeks with the knee injury he picked up in a pre-season fixture against Melbourne Victory. With fellow striker Michael Bridges also missing from the squad, Adam Taggart  will lead the line.

Despite the fact that they have won just six of the 26 A-League meetings between the sides, the Jets were undefeated in three matches against Sydney last season. Newcastle scored a thrilling 3-2  victory at this venue in the second week of the season before collecting another three points against the Sky Blues ten weeks later, while the round 19 fixture finished in a draw . The Jets triumphed 1-0  in a pre-season friendly between the clubs at WIN Stadium last month.

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