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The bookmakers have installed Frank Farina's team as the favourites in the 2013-14 season curtain-raiser at home to the visitors from the Hunter Valley

Sydney FC, tipped to improve sharply this season, simply must win at home against likely strugglers Newcastle in Friday night's 2013-14 A-League season opener if they are to compete with the big guns of the competition this season.

The Sky Blues had a season to forget in 2012-13, missing the finals for the second time in three seasons despite the arrival and subsequent superb form of Italian superstar Alessandro Del Piero.

But despite the improvement engineered by former Socceroos' manager Frank Farina once he took charge eight matches into the season, the club's dismal start under the axed Ian Crook and caretaker Steve Corica proved costly as Sydney FC ended the season in seventh spot.

However Sydney have not only retained Del Piero this season but have recruited well in the off-season bringing in young gun striker Corey Gameiro from EPL club Fulham as well as acquiring the experienced Richard Garcia from Melbourne Heart.

In contrast the Jets, who finished one place below Sydney last season, managed only one major signing in the off-season in the underachieving Nathan Burns - on loan from Korean club Incheon United.

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VALUE BET

Back Sydney FC to beat Newcastle

Back Del Piero to score first and Sydney to win 1-0 in scorecast betting at odds of $17 at bet365

The expectations for these two clubs this season is best reflected in grand final betting at bet365 where Sydney are the equal $8 fourth favourites with Brisbane - and only behind Central Coast Mariners and Western Sydney Wanderers (the equal $4.25 favourites) and Melbourne Victory at $5.50 in overall betting.

Newcastle, in contrast, are paying $21 to win the grand final - ahead of only Wellington at $26.

As for Friday night's season opener the Sky Blues are the $1.90 favourites at home at bet365, with the Jets paying $4 and the draw $3.50.

However Sydney did fail to beat the Jets in all three encounters last season although their home form at Allianz Stadium was generally good with seven wins and two draws from 13 matches.

The Jets won just three of 14 away games last season although they did manage seven draws on the road.

If you want to back the Jets at least do it in the draw no bet market at odds of $3 - where punters get their money back if the game ends in a draw.

But it's hard to envisage anything other than a Sydney win and all eyes will be on the little maestro Del Piero to see whether he can maintain the form that saw the Italian legend - who turns 39 next month - score 14 goals in 24 appearances last season.

Del Piero is the $4.75 favourite at bet365 to score the game's opening goal on Friday night - ahead of Newcastle's veteran English striker Emile Heskey at $6 - while Del Piero is paying $2.05 to score at any stage.

But if you are looking for real value consider backing Del Piero to score the opening goal and then Sydney FC to win 1-0 at odds of $17 at bet365 in scorecast betting.

*Note prices subject to change

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