Matchday preview: Wellington Phoenix v Sydney FC

One of the biggest games of the season awaits. Wellington Phoenix, the A-League leaders, versus top-two aspirant Sydney FC in third place four points behind. Westpac Stadium will be rocking this Sunday.

Where: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
When: Sunday, 29 March 2015
Kick-Off: 3pm (AEDT) 

Wellington Phoenix: 1.Glen MOSS (GK), 2.Manny MUSCAT, 3.Joel GRIFFITHS, 4.Roly BONEVACIA, 8.Alex RODRIGUEZ, 11.Kwabena APPIAH, 13.Albert RIERA, 14.Alex RUFER, 15.Jason HICKS, 17.Vince LIA, 18.Ben SIGMUND, 20.Lewis ITALIANO (GK), 21.Roy KRISHNA, 22.Andrew DURANTE (c), 23.Matthew RIDENTON, 31.Andrew BLAKE, 32.Tamupiwa DIMAIRO 

Sydney FC: 1.Ivan NECEVSKI (GK), 2.Seb RYALL, 5.Matt JURMAN, 6.Nikola PETKOVIC, 8.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 11.Bernie IBINI, 12. Hagi GLIGOR, 13.Christopher NAUMOFF, 14.Alex BROSQUE (c), 16.Alex GERSBACH, 18. Peter TRIANTIS, 20.Vedran JANJETOVIC (GK), 23.Rhyan GRANT, 25. Aaron CALVER, 26.Jacques FATY, 27.Mickael TAVARES, 34.Robert STAMBOLZIEV 

Hashtag #WELvSYD

Broadcast coverage

TV - Live and exclusive coverage on FOX SPORTS 505 from 3.00pm (AEDT)
Radio - Online / ABC Radio Mobile phone app
Referee - Peter Green 

A heavyweight clash awaits between two sides with realistic title aspirations. 

The Wellington Phoenix return to Westpac Stadium for the first time since early January after three games at their temporary home, the Hutt Rec.  

Sydney FC jet in for the first time since they beat West Ham United at this venue in July, looking to continue the fantastic form which has catapulted them up the table since the Asian Cup break. 

While both are depleted through international call-ups, there’ll be no shortage of quality or passion as these two finals-bound sides battle for precious regular season points and table position. 

- Sydney FC are the only A-League side yet to lose away from home this season, having won six (including the last five) and drawn four of their games on the road. 

- However, the Phoenix are unbeaten in nine home matches, winning six and drawing three, conceding a league-low seven home goals this season. 

- Sydney’s last clean sheet in Wellington came in December 2009 and they have failed to shut out the Phoenix in any of their last seven visits, six of which the Phoenix have won. 

- The Phoenix have scored in their last 11 matches (home and away) against Sydney FC and in 15 of their last 16 meetings.  

- Sydney FC have failed to score in just three of their 24 games against the Phoenix, but two of those occasions have come in the last three matches. 

- There have been 75 goals in the 24 games between the two sides at an average of 3.12 goals per game.  

- Only one of those 24 meetings has been drawn, with Sydney winning 12 and the Phoenix 11 of their previous clashes. 

International commitments for Marc Janko and Nathan Burns have robbed this fixture of the leading pair in this season’s Golden Boot race.  

While their combined 29 goals have been instrumental in their respective sides’ red-hot form, there’s no shortage of other goalscoring threats on either roster. 

The Phoenix have performed well in Burns’ absence at various stages this season; in fact, they’ve won all three games he’s missed through injury and the Asian Cup.   

Roy Krishna scored twice in the recent 2-1 victory over the Glory (with Burns away) and needs just one more goal to hit double figures for the season.  

Veteran Joel Griffiths is likely to partner him up front, with the always dangerous Roly Bonevacia lurking in behind. 

In Janko’s absence, Graham Arnold can call on one of the A-League’s deadliest marksmen in former Phoenix favourite Shane Smeltz, who will look to add to his six goals this season (half of which have come from the bench) and close the gap on Archie Thompson at the top of the all-time A-League goalscoring list.  

Alex Brosque and Bernie Ibini have been practically ever-present for the Sky Blues this season and will provide able support for Smeltz in Sydney’s quest for goals. 

New Zealand is in the grip of cricket fever with the Black Caps reaching their first World Cup final. Even the Phoenix players have been caught up in the excitement.

Wellington Phoenix: WWWWD 
The home side come into this game in fine form, looking to round out March with an unprecedented fifth straight victory. 

Sydney FC: LWWWW 
Sydney’s hot streak was halted by Melbourne City last weekend, but it represents just a blip in what has been a wonderful post-Asian Cup run, during which they collected 19 of an available 21 points, while banging in 25 goals. 

Six players have played A-League football for both the Phoenix and Sydney FC; Jeremy Brockie, Corey Gameiro, Joel Griffiths, Shane Smeltz, Liam Reddy and Nikolas Tsattalios. 

Wellington Phoenix 2 Sydney FC 1 

The Phoenix are top of the league for a reason – they’re playing free-flowing, attacking football and scoring goals, while also keeping them out at the other end. They come into this game on a four-game winning streak and with a water-tight home record. 

Sydney FC are also in sparkling form and despite having a nine-game unbeaten streak snapped by Melbourne City FC last weekend, they are still formidable opponents. Without Janko though, they may not be quite as potent, which could allow the Phoenix to edge this one and hand Sydney FC their first away defeat of 2014/15.