Melbourne City need to stop leaking

Defence is one of the areas of primary focus for Melbourne City coach Erik Mombaerts.
Defence is one of the areas of primary focus for Melbourne City coach Erik Mombaerts.

Melbourne City coach Erick Mombaerts has targeted a vastly improved defensive showing against Newcastle in Sunday's A-League clash at McDonald Jones Stadium.

City were left reeling by a 3-0 dismantling at home to Perth Glory last week, their worst result of the season to date.

That scoreline, coupled with Sydney FC's 5-1 thumping of Brisbane, allowed the reigning champions to skip five points clear at the top of the ladder.

City remain second, but are wary of slipping too far behind the Sky Blues in the hunt for the Premiers Plate.

"We were disappointed about our previous game, more about the result than our play," Mombaerts said.

"But our players had a very good attitude this week at training and we are focused on what we can improve to face this team.

"We know that Newcastle is a good team."

Mombaerts said there had been a strong focus this week on City protecting their own penalty area after coughing up multiple goals in the same match for the third consecutive week.

City have conceded nine in that time and have one of the worst defensive records in the A-League, having not kept a clean sheet since the scoreless derby against Melbourne Victory in round one (October 12).

"We have to be more efficient in this phase, so we'll focus a lot on this," Mombaerts said.

"It's also normal to try to improve our strengths about creating more opportunities.

"To do this, we need to have more penetrating runs."

Mombaerts should have a full list of players to choose from, with Florin Berenguer back from a hamstring injury and Ramy Najjarine included in the 20-man squad.

Midfielder Rostyn Griffiths is expected to play despite displaying flu-like symptoms in recent days.

Richard Windbichler made his first bench appearance last week and Connor Metcalfe played 90 minutes on return from a hamstring injury.

They were also involved in a full-scale practice match at training on Wednesday.

Newcastle rained 31 shots on Adelaide United last week, but only managed to score once in a 2-1 defeat, and will be desperate to keep in touch with top six.

Mombaerts felt Newcastle's attacking bent under Ernie Merrick could leave them exposed on the counterattack, giving City something to exploit.

"Many (of their) players are involved in attacking, so it's normal that in defensive transition maybe they are in trouble," Mombaerts said.

"It's not the best way for us to attack, but we will focus also on this."

Australian Associated Press