A-League preview: Wellington Phoenix v Western Sydney Wanderers

Get set for one of the most intriguing clashes of the season when the new ‘sexy’ football of Phoenix meets the newly crowned Kings of Asia on Friday night in Wellington.

Wellington Phoenix v Western Sydney Wanderers FC

Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Kick-Off: 7:30 PM (Local) (5:30 PM AEDT)

Referee: Lucien Laverdure

Wellington Phoenix Squad: 1.Glen MOSS (GK), 2.Manny MUSCAT, 4.Roly BONEVACIA, 5.Michael BOXALL, 7, Kenny CUNNINGHAM, 8.Alex RODRIGUEZ, 9.Nathan BURNS, 10.Michael McGLINCHEY, 11.Jeremy BROCKIE, 13.Albert RIERA, 16 Louis FENTON, 17.Vince LIA, 18.Ben SIGMUND, 19.Tom DOYLE, 20.Lewis ITALIANO (GK), 21.Roy KRISHNA, 22.Andrew DURANTE (c), 23.Matthew RIDENTON. ***two to be omitted***

Ins: 5.Michael BOXALL (promoted) 7.Kenny CUNNINGHAM (promoted)
Outs: Nil
Unavailable: Nil

Western Sydney Wanderers squad: 1.Ante COVIC (GK), 3.Daniel MULLEN, 4.Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY (c), 5.Brendan HAMILL, 6.Antony GOLEC, 7.Labinot HALITI, 8.Mateo POLJAK, 9.Tomi JURIC, 12.Nikita RUKAVYTSYA, 13.Matthew SPIRANOVIC, 16.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 17.Romeo CASTELEN, 18.Iacopo LA ROCCA, 19.Mark BRIDGE, 20.Dean BOUZANIS (GK), 22.Seyi ADELEKE, 23.Jason TRIFIRO, 33.Daniel ALESSI **two to be omitted**

Ins: 9.Tomi JURIC (promoted), 12.Nikita RUKAVYTSYA (promoted), 13.Matthew SPIRANOVIC (promoted), 22.Seyi ADELEKE (promoted), 16.Jaushua SOTIRIO (promoted), 33.Daniel ALESSI (promoted)
Outs: 2.Shannon COLE (not selected), 10.Vitor SABA (suspended – 1 week), 11.Brendon SANTALAB (shoulder – indefinite), 14.Kwabena APPIAH (not selected)
Unavailable: 34.Golgol MUBRAHTU (knee – indefinite)

Broadcast coverage

TV Broadcast: Live and exclusive coverage on FOX SPORTS 4HD & FOX SPORTS 4 from 5.00pm (AEDT) and Sky Sport 4 (New Zealand)

Radio Broadcast: Grandstand Online/A-League Live Mobile phone app, Radio Sport Wellington (93.7FM) and Radio Sport Extra on I-Heart radio app 

BLUFFER’S GUIDE

After the mountainous highs of winning the Asian Champions League in such dramatic fashion last weekend, the Western Sydney Wanderers must quickly re-focus for their trip to Wellington if they’re to avoid the first regular-season three-game losing streak in their short history.

When the two teams walk out of the tunnel, the Phoenix players won’t look across and see the champions of Asia; instead, they’ll see a side that – because of their recent exertions – may well be more beatable than in previous meetings.

OPTA DATA STATS

Western Sydney is the only team the Phoenix have scored more goals against away from Wellington than they have at home. In fact, the Phoenix have scored just one goal in three games against WSW at Westpac Stadium – Jeremy Brockie’s wind-assisted strike in the very first meeting between the sides in December 2012.

At the other end, the Phoenix are on a 16-game streak without keeping a clean sheet, conceding 39 goals in that time. That will pique the interest of Wanderers striker Mark Bridge who’s looking to score in three consecutive games for the first time in his 10-year Hyundai A-League career.

ROUTE TO GOAL

With the injection of fresh legs likely to be key for Tony Popovic, WSW may well rely on two players who were spared the rigours of the ACL, in recently-arrived Socceroo Nikita Rukavytsya and Dutch winger Romeo Castelen, to spearhead their attack. The Phoenix bubble was burst somewhat on Monday night in Melbourne with the Victory running out easy winners. Getting Nathan Burns and Michael McGlinchey more heavily involved will be at the forefront of coach Ernie Merrick’s mind as he strategises for a clash against the defensively adept visitors.

WHO’S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?

Who else but Western Sydney goalkeeper Ante Covic? He’s been all over the media – and rightly so after he received many of the plaudits following the ACL win, with his superhuman late save denying Al-Hilal a foothold in the final.

FORM LINES

The Phoenix come into this game off the back of Monday night’s loss to Victory which snapped a two-game winning streak. Wanderers haven’t played A-League football for three weeks and have lost both of their games so far this season.

DID YOU KNOW?

Wellington Phoenix haven’t played a Friday night home game since their 3-2 playoff win over Sydney FC on 30 March 2012. Of their fifteen Friday night home games, the Phoenix have won 8, drawn 4 and lost just 3.

PREDICTION

Wellington Phoenix 2 Western Sydney Wanderers 1

The travel-weary and ACL-hungover Wanderers may find points hard to come by against a Wellington side desperate to prove they are genuine top six contenders.