Jets coach Mark Jones said he wasn’t concerned about an injury-plagued Newcastle facing one of the A-League’s most dangerous strikers in round eight on Saturday.
Newcastle will be up against Albanian international and three-time championship winner Besart Berisha when taking on the Victory in Melbourne after the casualty ward reached seven players this week.
Jones said the Victory’s combination up front, spearheaded by 2011-2012 golden boot Berisha, was indeed quality but matched across the competition and seen by the Jets in recent encounters.
“I think it has been tough each week,” Jones said.
“Look at Sydney’s front four, Wellington’s front four and even Central Coast on the weekend. They are good players with a lot of speed and this week is much the same. The two boys either side are quick, Berisha in the middle and their number 10 has been a good footballer for a long time.
“Most teams are structured very well with a good top four and we have to deal with that.”
Ivan Vujica, Labinot Haliti and Andy Brennan have been promoted to the Jets’ 17-man squad, which will have one omitted before travelling on Friday.
Chinese import Ma Leilei is expected to have his first start for the club.
It follows Andrew Nabbout (ankle) and Aleksandr Kokko (jaw) being added to the ever-growing injury list during a dramatic 1-all derby draw with the Central Coast Mariners at home on Sunday.
They both face a month out and join skipper Nigel Boogaard (knee), goalkeeper Ben Kennedy (achilles) and defenders Daniel Mullen (knee), Daniel Alessi (knee) and Lachlan Jackson (ankle) on the sidelines.
Despite the setbacks Jones remains confident of gaining three points from AAMI Park and moving within one of fifth-placed Victory.
If so it would continue Jones’ impressive record in the Victorian capital, which included the Jets grand final campaign in 2007-2008.
“In all the games I’ve been involved in [with the Jets] I can’t remember one that we’ve lost down there,” Jones said. “And I back ourselves against anyone. We want to try and play … and if we can keep a clean sheet we’ll score goals.”
In more recent times the Jets and Victory have split the honours down the middle with four draws and two wins apiece from their last eight encounters at either venue.
Ben Kantarovski is poised to equal Tarek Elrich’s club record 134 appearances.
Kick-off is 5:35pm.
SQUAD*: Jason Hoffman, Ben Kantarovski, Steven Ugarkovic, Andrew Hoole, Mateo Poljak, Wayne Brown (C), Labinot Haliti, Andy Brennan, Ivan Vujica, Nicholas Cowburn, Ma Leilei, Morten Nordstrand, Jack Duncan (gk), Devante Clut, Iain Fyfe, John Koutroumbis, Pierce Clark (gk).
*One to be omitted