Matchday preview: Wellington Phoenix v Western Sydney Wanderers

The Wanderers are on the road in another country. Again! And this time Popa's travel weary Asian kings - fresh from the Club World Cup in Morocco - face the form team of the A-League in Wellington. A big Christmas crowd is tipped for this crackerjack match-up.

MATCH DETAILS

Wellington Phoenix v Western Sydney Wanderers FC

Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Kick-Off: 7:00 PM (Local) (5:00 PM AEDT)

Squads:

Wellington Phoenix Squad: 1.Glen MOSS (GK), 4.Roly BONEVACIA, 5.Michael BOXALL, 7, Kenny CUNNINGHAM, 8.Alex RODRIGUEZ, 9.Nathan BURNS, 10.Michael McGLINCHEY, 11.Jeremy BROCKIE, 12.Tyler BOYD, 13.Albert RIERA, 14.Alex RUFER, 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: 12.Vince LIA (returns from injury), 14.Alex RUFER (promoted)

Outs: Nil

Unavailable: 2. Manny MUSCAT (suspended – 1 match)

Western Sydney Wanderers FC Squad: 1.Ante COVIC (GK), 2.Shannon COLE, 3.Daniel MULLEN, 5.Brendan HAMILL, 6.Antony GOLEC, 7.Labinot HALITI, 9.Tomi JURIC, 10.Vitor SABA, 12 .Nikita RUKAVYTSYA, 13.Matthew SPIRANOVIC, 16.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 18.Iacopo LA ROCCA, 20.Dean BOUZANIS (gk), 22.Seyi ADELEKE, 23.Jason TRIFIRO, 31.Alusine FOFANAH, 32.Daniel ALESSI, 35.Kearyn BACCUS

***two to be omitted***

Ins: 3.Daniel MULLEN (promoted), 22.Seyi ADELEKE (promoted), 31.Alusine FOFANAH (promoted), 32.Daniel ALESSI (promoted)

Outs: 4.Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY (suspended – 1 week), 19.Mark BRIDGE (Hamstring – 1 week)

Unavailable: 11.Brendon SANTALAB (shoulder – indefinite), 34.Golgol MEBRAHTU (knee – indefinite)

Hashtag #WELvWSW

Broadcast coverage

TV Broadcast: Live and exclusive coverage on FOX SPORTS 505 from 5.00pm (AEDT) and Sky Sport 3 (New Zealand)

Radio Broadcast: Online / ABC Radio Mobile phone app, Radio Sport Wellington (93.7FM) and online at Radio Sport and via the i-Heart radio app.

Referee: Peter O’Leary

BLUFFER'S GUIDE

Just when it seemed Western Sydney could finally put their incredibly arduous travel schedule behind them, they have to pack their well-worn passports and board another international flight. Waiting in Wellington, the high-flying Phoenix will look to heap further misery on the beleaguered ACL Champions.

Few could have predicted how poor a start Tony Popovic’s side would endure to this season after the consistency and success of their first two A-League campaigns. Almost as worrying as the nine winless matches is their goalscoring tally; just six goals in thirteen-and-a-half hours of A-League football is an extremely meagre return.

By contrast, the Phoenix are in a rich (and rarely-seen) vein of goalscoring form, finding the net 21 times in 11 matches. With Nathan Burns in the lead role and a support cast of Roy Krishna, Michael McGlinchey and Roly Bonevacia, Wellington are high on confidence as 2015 approaches.

OPTA DATA STATS

The Wellington Phoenix are unbeaten in their last four A-League matches (three wins and a draw) while WSW are the only side yet to win a game this season, with three draws and six losses so far.

As mentioned above, WSW are also the league’s lowest goalscorers and have failed to find the net in their last two outings. The Phoenix though, have kept just one clean sheet in their last 10 home matches, but that was against Western Sydney in round five this season.

ROUTE TO GOAL

If the Phoenix have a mantra at the moment, it’s 'Get the ball to Burns'. Never has a striker been so potent this early in an A-League season, so expect the home side to look to use him in the attacking third as often as possible. Furthermore, his form has also taken the focus away from his team-mates who have benefited from the majority of the defensive focus being on the Australian hotshot and not them. The absence of talismanic WSW skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley will only add to their problems.

By contrast, the visitors would take a goal any way it might come at present, but it’s not as though they’re short of attacking weaponry. Tomi Juric has done enough to earn a Socceroos place for the Asian Cup, and in Vitor Saba and Nikita Rukavytsya there certainly exists goal-scoring potential.

WHO'S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?

As widely predicted, Burns’ red-hot form (10 goals in 11 games) was impossible for Ange Postecoglou to ignore as he earned inclusion in the Socceroos squad for the Asian Cup.

FORM LINES

The Phoenix are on a four-game unbeaten run and will wonder how they didn’t claim maximum points from the one blemish in that streak; a 1-1 draw with Central Coast which they totally dominated without being able to find a winner.

Western Sydney’s season badly needs a kick-start. Apart from their nine-game winless start to 2014/15, they’ve also kept only one clean sheet so far, which – for a side which has been built on stern defence from day one of its existence – must be extremely concerning.  

DID YOU KNOW? 

Goals in games between these two at Westpac Stadium have been relatively rare, with just four in four games. By contrast, there have been nine goals in the three meetings between the two on Australian soil.

PREDICTION
: Wellington Phoenix 2 Western Sydney Wanderers 0

It’s hard to see the Wanderers’ winless run ending in Wellington; travel-weary and without their skipper against one of the form attacking sides in the competition, they’re right up against it. The Phoenix will want to send Burns off to the Asian Cup in style and provide a late Christmas present for their increasingly optimistic fans.