After a six-week absence, Newcastle Jets coach Arthur Papas says his players are "itching" to resume their A-League Men season on Sunday.
The last time the Jets played, on December 19, they were in the top six.
They head into Sunday's home fixture against Adelaide United second from bottom.
"We are the team that has had the longest period out, of anyone," Papas said.
"We want to get back on the field and get some rhythm.
"That is important, because even though we haven't played for six weeks the reality is we can't play practice matches.
"The boys have trained well and they are itching to play a competitive match.
"When we stopped playing we were in the top six and now we're not, without playing a game."
The Jets have played just five games this season for five points -- one win and pairs of draws and losses.
And Papas is now bracing for a crammed schedule as the Jets seek to recover ground on their rivals.
"We know that's going to end in a congested schedule so we will plan for it and hopefully we'll start again and pick up the pace of the competition, get some results and move up the table," he said.
While Newcastle were sidelined by a string of COVID-related issues, their next opponents Adelaide have revived their season.
The Reds surged into fifth place by defeating Brisbane 3-1 last Sunday.
Carl Veart's troops have two wins, five draws and two defeats and a new striker settling in, tall Japanese marksman Hiroshi Ibusuki.
Papas spent two years coaching in Japan and knows the dangers presented by Ibusuki.
"I coached against him and I know what he brings," Papas said.
"He is a very strong target man, he's good in the box and in the air.
"He wants to compete and he's another quality player."
Australian Associated Press
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