THEY’RE the defending champions, runaway competition leaders and arguably the finest team in A-League history.
But if Sydney FC are invincible, nobody has relayed that message to the Newcastle Jets, who intend to prove their opponents are mere mortals at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday.
“Unbeatable, that’s a big word, in any sport,” Jets striker Roy O’Donovan told the Newcastle Herald.
“It’s not true. It’s how the opposition shape up against you, and have they got that belief to go and take the bull by the horns, as such, and win the game.
“We’ve never taken a backward step this season and we’re not going to start now.
“It’s a game we’re all looking forward to, so bring it on.”
In what shapes as a blockbuster showdown, Newcastle will enter as underdogs but with plenty of cause for confidence.
Not only are they second on the ladder by eight points, but they gave Sydney a scare both times they played them earlier in the season, losing 2-1 and drawing 2-all at Allianz Stadium, despite having a number of key players unavailable.
O’Donovan missed both those clashes because of a groin injury that sidelined him for nine weeks. He returned three games ago and is quickly regaining his match fitness and cutting edge.
“I haven’t played against them [Sydney] this year, so I’m looking forward to testing my mettle,” he said.
“It’s difficult to miss any game, as an athlete, but you definitely don’t want to miss the big games.
“Certainly those two games in Sydney this year, that was frustrating, because the lads could probably have done with my help.
“I was in the stands, wishing I was kicking every ball, so it will be nice to be involved this weekend.”
The 32-year-old Irishman, who scored seven goals in five games for the Jets before he was injured, said Newcastle’s cursed run against Sydney was no concern of his.
Sydney are undefeated in their past 15 matches against Newcastle, stringing together 12 wins and three draws – a five-year period of dominance that is unrivalled in A-League history.
“The past history doesn’t bother me too much,” O’Donovan said.
“This is a completely new squad, a new manager. To be honest, the last four or five years are immaterial.
“This year is all you can go off, and we’ve had two very close contests with Sydney and we were unlucky not to win one of them, at least.”
Sydney will arrive in Newcastle in imperious form, having won 16 of their 21 games this season, including their past four in a row.
Their only loss was a 2-0 boilover against Central Coast in round six.
Newcastle have 12 wins to their names, including a gritty 1-0 victory in Brisbane last weekend.
“We showed a lot of character to get over the line, and it just shows the strength and depth we have in the squad,” O’Donovan said.
The Jets will be hoping for a bumper home crowd for the clash between the A-League’s most lethal attacking outfits.
“You’ll have two teams 100 per cent committed, and both of us play an attractive brand of football,” O’Donovan said.
“They’re playing some good stuff, as are we. We both like to attack, so it’s shaping us as a good game and a spectacle.”
O’Donovan was confident his first goal since round five was not far away.
“It was always going to take a few weeks,” O’Donovan said. “Every game I’ve felt a little bit better.
“My groin is having less and less reaction, and I’m getting more and more involved in games and training.
“It’s getting close to 100 per cent, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect.”
Newcastle hope that midfielder Ben Kantarovski, who has missed the past two games with a hamstring problem, will be fit to tackle Sydney.
Skipper Nigel Boogaard is in doubt with a knee injury.