Matchday preview: Wellington Phoenix v Sydney FC

Regular season games don’t come much bigger than this as Wellington host Sydney FC in a shoot-out for second place on the A-League table.

MATCH DETAILS

Wellington Phoenix v Sydney FC

Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Kick-Off: 5:00 PM (Local) (3:00 PM AEDT)

Wellington Phoenix: 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.Kwabena APPIAH, 13.Albert RIERA, 15.Jason HICKS, 16.Louis FENTON, 17.Vince LIA, 18.Ben SIGMUND, 19.Tom DOYLE, 20.Lewis ITALIANO (GK), 21.Roy KRISHNA, 22.Andrew DURANTE (c)

***two to be omitted***

Ins: 11.Kwabena APPIAH (promoted), 19.Tom DOYLE (promoted)

Outs: Nil

Unavailable: 3.Joel GRIFFITHS (knee injury, ruptured ACL – indefinite)

Sydney FC: 1.Ivan NECEVSKI (GK), 2.Seb RYALL, 5.Matt JURMAN, 6.Nikola PETKOVIC, 8.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 11.Bernie IBINI, 13.Christopher NAUMOFF, 14.Alex BROSQUE (c), 16.Alex GERSBACH, 18.Peter TRIANTIS, 20.Vedran JANJETOVIC (GK), 21.Marc JANKO, 23.Rhyan GRANT, 25.Aaron CALVER, 26.Jacques FATY, 27.Mickael TAVARES, 34.Robert STAMBOLZIEV

***two to be omitted***

Ins: 6.Nikola PETKOVIC (return from injury), 27.Mickael TAVARES (return from injury)

Outs: Nil

Unavailable: 3.Sasa OGNENOVSKI (hip – indefinite), 7.Corey GAMEIRO (knee – indefinite), 17.Terry ANTONIS (knee – 1 week), 19.Nick CARLE (knee – indefinite), 22.Ali ABBAS (knee – indefinite)

Hashtag: #WELvSYD

TV Broadcast: Live coverage on FOX SPORTS 505 from 3.00pm (AEST) and Sky Sport 3 (New Zealand)

Radio Broadcast: Online/ABC Radio Mobile phone app and via Radio Sport Extra (NZ) online and via I-Heart Radio app.

Referee: Strebre Delovski

BLUFFER’S GUIDE

A top-two finish is priceless for so many reasons, not least historically – all nine previous A-League champions finished first or second in the regular season.

Less than a month ago at the same venue, Sydney FC shot out to a 3-0 half-time lead that was never relinquished as Graham Arnold got his tactics spot on.

Phoenix – without Nathan Burns and Michael McGlinchey – were unable to find any goalscoring edge or passing fluidity and Sydney went home with all three points.

It’s impossible to over-state just how much is riding on this match with a free pass into the semi-finals up for grabs.

These two may well meet again during the finals, meaning a win for either would not only secure home advantage for that potential clash, but give them a psychological edge as well.

OPTA DATA STATS

Sydney FC are undefeated away from home this season with nine wins and four draws, including winning their past seven on the road. In away games in 2014-15, they’ve outscored their opponents 31-13.

Despite conceding eight goals in their last three games in Wellington, the Phoenix are second only to Melbourne City FC in keeping clean sheets at home this season.

Phoenix’s 3-0 home defeat to Sydney FC in March ended a run of 11 successive games (home and away) in which they’d scored against them. It was Sydney’s second victory in their last three trips to Wellington, following a run of five straight defeats there.

ROUTE TO GOAL

Despite combining for 29 goals this season, Golden Boot leaders Marc Janko (16) and Nathan Burns (13) have been less prolific recently with neither finding the net in their last four matches.

International duty meant neither played in Sydney’s 3-0 win over Wellington a month ago, but Burns bagged a brace in the 2-0 win in Sydney just before Christmas. Meanwhile, Wellington are one of only two sides (along with Adelaide United) who Janko hasn’t scored against in his debut A-League season.

Both sides also have impressive support casts to their main men.

Sky Blues captain Alex Brosque has been in superb form with four goals in the last two games, while Bernie Ibini is enjoying arguably his best A-League season.

Phoenix super-sub Kenny Cunningham took his career A-League goals tally into double figures last weekend, while Roy Krishna, Roly Bonevacia and McGlinchey always need to be closely watched by opposition defenders.

WHO’S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?

Key men Nikola Petkovic and Mickael Tavares will return from their respective injuries to be available for Sydney FC in this key clash.

FORM LINES (last five games)

Wellington Phoenix: WDLLW

The Phoenix’s last-gasp victory over the Mariners last weekend snapped a three-game winless (and goal-less) streak for Ernie Merrick’s men. It may well prove to be the re-launch Wellington needed to get their best ever season back on track.

Sydney FC: WWLWL

The two losses in their last five games were Sydney’s first of 2015. They’ve resided in the A-League’s top three since the beginning of March and Graham Arnold has them tracking very, very well as the finals loom large.

DID YOU KNOW?

Wellington Phoenix have won all nine games in which Burns has scored this season.

PREDICTION

Wellington Phoenix 1 Sydney FC 0

While Sydney’s away form is indisputable, this is a different Phoenix side from that which surrendered meekly a month ago. The thrilling win over Central Coast gave the Phoenix a boost in points, goals and confidence and they’re quietly determined to secure their first ever top-two regular season finish. 

For their part, Sydney FC have a rare unbeaten away season firmly in their sights; should they achieve it, second place will be theirs.