THE Newcastle Jets will welcome the return of attacking sparkplug Reno Piscopo as they seek redemption in Sunday's A-League clash against Melbourne City at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Piscopo, who is understood to be Newcastle's highest-paid player and proved his quality last year when he scored one goal and created another playing for the A-League All Stars against mighty Barcelona, is yet to feature in this campaign after injuring his calf in the pre-season.
But Jets coach Rob Stanton expects the 25-year-old to be fit and available on Sunday and plans to use him, along with teenage strike weapon Archie Goodwin, as a second-half super sub.
"He's completed all the training, so we're hoping there are no late hiccups and he's good to go," Stanton told the Newcastle Herald.
"He's had a few setbacks and issues with it and we've been cautious in his return-to-play program, because we didn't want to break him again. It's taken a bit longer than expected, but hopefully the reward for that is that he's back now for the rest of the season."
Stanton had no doubt that Piscopo and Goodwin - who scored in last week's 3-1 loss to Central Coast on return from back surgery - could give Newcastle's attack a new dimension.
"Reno is a creative player and you need players like him, with a bit of X-factor about them," Stanton said.
"We'll probably play him as a second No.10, but he could also play up in the line and have a bit of a free rein.
"Once we get him match fit, we believe he can do some big things for us.
"We just want to get him some minutes and see how quickly he can find his feet.
"He hasn't played for a long time, so I'm not expecting miracles, but hopefully we'll get him back on the pitch this week and he can make a contribution.
"We have to ease him back in. It's a big ask when players return from injuries."
Piscopo, who spent six years in Inter Milan's youth set-up and represented Italy from under-15s to under-17s, played 59 A-League games for Wellington Phoenix before joining the Jets last season. He played 18 games in his first campaign with Newcastle, scoring one goal.
Stanton has been more than happy with his incumbent strike force, Apostolos Stamatelopoulos and Trent Buhagiar, but was delighted to have Goodwin and Piscopo back to bolster Newcastle's firepower.
"You need to have your best players on the park," he said.
"It just gives us more options and more creativity.
"We've been longing to have both those two guys available. They just give us a new dynamic and I'm pretty excited about it."
Stanton said his players were highly motivated to bounce back from last week's derby loss, which he felt was an aberration.
"If you look at our first five games, we've been competitive and scored goals in every game," Stanton said.
"Last week our first half wasn't to the standards we set for ourselves. So all the boys and myself, we're really disappointed and dirty on ourselves. We know we're better than that."
City, last season's runners-up, sit one point behind seventh-placed Newcastle and are coming off a big week of travel in which they have played away in Auckland and Japan, in the Asian Champions League.
"They have probably the strongest team in the league, on paper," Stanton said.
"They've had a heavy schedule, but they also have depth as well. They're a quality team."