Del Piero, Heskey square off in A-League classic

THEY are two of the biggest names to grace the A-League.

One has played at two World Cups, spent 18 years in the English Premier League and is renowned for holding the ball up and bringing others in to the game.

The other has won a World Cup, was named in the greatest 125 players of all time, scored 203 goals for Juventus and is revered as a scorer and creator of goals.

Today Emile Heskey and Alessandro Del Piero will go head-to-head for the first time when the Newcastle Jets take on Sydney FC at Allianz Stadium.

"I know it's going to be a massive game," Heskey said.

"We've both had reasonably good careers, so it's a good match to look forward to.

"Going down to Sydney, it's a big city, and you always want to win against your big-city rivals."

The excitement surrounding the arrival of Heskey and Del Piero, in particular, has been unprecedented and a big crowd is expected to rock Moore Park.

A large number of Jets fans are expected to make the trip down the F3 for the encounter.

The away-supporters' stand is reported to be sold out and Heskey says his side will revel in the atmosphere.

"There'll be 30,00 people screaming, cheering and getting us going, so we're raring to go," Heskey said.

The international blue-bloods have crossed paths once before, but were not on the field at the same time.

"There was an England versus Italy game [in 2000] where I came off in the 73rd minute and he came on in the 73rd minute, but we've never actually clashed before," Heskey said.

"He's a brilliant player. You can see from some of the touches he had in the game (against Wellington) that he's still got the ability to thrill a crowd and create chances.

“We’ve got a hard task, but I’m sure we’ll do well.”

Both marquee men had mixed starts to life in the A-League.

Heskey, who revealed he had ‘‘a little groin niggle’’,  made an industrious if not spectacular debut in the Jets’ shock 2-0 loss to Adelaide United at home.

He held the ball up, battled hard and provided a target without ever really threatening.

The 34-year-old will have benefited greatly from his second week of training and should be more in sync with his teammates.

Coach Gary van Egmond also hinted at tweaking with the formation to help prevent Heskey from being isolated and becoming an easy proposition for Sydney FC to tame.

“It was up and down. I felt I could have been in the game a little bit more but, obviously, my fitness isn’t where I want it to be,” Heskey said.

“These lads have been training for four months now. I’m getting up to speed, day by day and hopefully I’ll be up there soon.

“We do need to improve, but I think we kept the ball reasonably well, even with 10 men. We’ve got to try and create a few more chances and hopefully get a few goals.

“We had to go out wide and get the crosses in early, and we didn’t quite achieve that, but I don’t think we can too be critical of us. It’s a difficult game and you’ve got to try and suss out the strategy early on.”

Although Sydney FC also went down, losing 2-0 to a typically combative Wellington, Del Piero’s class was evident.

His vision and ability to play in several different roles – leading the line, as a second striker or attacking midfielder – makes him a difficult proposition for rival coaches to plan against.

Sydney FC defender and former Jet Adam Griffiths, who is still pinching himself over playing alongside Del Piero, was confident of a improved performance.

‘‘As a group we definitely feel better prepared,’’ said Griffiths who was looking forward to the duel challenge of going against Heskey and   brother Ryan Griffiths.

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