ERNIE Merrick expects the Central Coast Mariners to lift under new coach Alen Stajcic but believes the Jets have the game plan and the firepower to continue their recent dominance of the F3 derby at home on Saturday night.
What's more they could have an extra weapon to help get the job done.
Marquee midfielder Ronny Vargas (hamstring) trained fully on Wednesday and only needs to get through Friday's final session to win a place on the bench.
"Ronny wasn't supposed to come back until next week but he wants to play," Merrick said. "It is really about him being pain-free and there being no chance of the injury getting worse. If there is a chance of it getting worse, we would leave him another week. By the same token, he is feeling good - he is certainly running well - and if he can pass a fitness test on Friday, he will definitely be on the bench. It will be a bonus to have him on the bench because we didn't think we'd have him until the Phoenix game but he is doing everything right."
Matthew Ridenton appears likely to start in the No.10 role on Saturday in what will be a different looking team to the one which accounted for Melbourne Victory 2-0 a fortnight ago.
Johnny Koutroumbis, Joey Champness and Ivan Vujica are in camp with the Olyroos in Kuala Lumpur ahead of the Asian under-23 championship qualifiers in Cambodia next week. Ben Kantarovski also remains sidelined with a calf injury.
Lachy Jackson will start at left back. Nick Cowburn is likely to partner Steve Ugarkovic at the base of midfield.
"We have a really good squad," Merrick said. "Training has been short and sharp this week and we are ready to go."
The Jets have won the past five F3 derbies and face a Mariners outfit coming off a shambolic 8-2 loss to Wellington, which resulted in the sacking of coach Mike Mulvey and appointment of Stajcic in a caretaker role.
"I think Alen did an absolutely wonderful job with the Matildas," Merrick said. "Taking personalties and players out of it, a new coach coming into any team usually gives the players a bit of a lift. He will structure them. How well they stick to that structure depends on how coachable they are. A similar thing happened last year. Paul Okon was sacked and we played them a couple of weeks later and we did really well. Our focus is on their structure, how we combat it and how we attack and play. There is no doubt they will put a good team out against us. We just have to back ourselves to play well in the next few games, otherwise we are not going to get into the finals. The next two games are crucial for us against the Mariners and Wellington Phoenix."
As well as Vargas, Merrick said recent arrival Kwabena Appiah would make his Jets debut on the bench.
The 26-year-old winger was released from Korean club Incheon United in January and has been training with the Jets for the past three weeks.
"He is way ahead of where I thought he would be," Merrick said. "He has matured a lot as a player since I coached him in Wellington four or five years ago, when I signed him there. He would probably be one of the quickest, if not the quickest, in the league. We have lost two speedy winger-type players in Jason Hoffman (ankle) and Mitch Austin (released)."
Appiah made 25 appearances for Incheon in the K-League and Merrick said he had returned a more rounded player.
"I think Korea was very good for him," the coach said. "He says he was training four times a day - two field and two gym sessions - at one stage. He has come through the other end a better person for it. You wouldn't want to do that too often, you would break down. His pace up front is a big plus for us.
"He also has an eye for goal now. He was more or less a winger who wanted to hit in crosses. He is becoming a Jets-type of player up front."