Hyundai A-League preview: Phoenix v City

Melbourne City’s big guns are back and they absolutely must win this one after just one victory in their last five. Can a trip to Wellington – who haven't won in their last four – spark their season or will Phoenix reignite their finals tilt?

MATCH DETAILS

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne City FC

Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Kick-Off: 7:35PM (Local) (5:35PM (AEDT))

Referee: Jonathan Barreiro

Assistant Referee 1: Simon Lount

Assistant Referee 2: Sarah Jones

Fourth Official: Ben Abraham

TV Broadcast: Live coverage on Fox Sports 505 from 5.00pm (AEDT) and Sky Sport 2 (New Zealand)

Radio Broadcast: ABC Grandstand, 1116 SEN (Melbourne)

Join the conversation on Twitter using the hash-tag #WELvMCY

To purchase tickets visit www.aleague.com.au

Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Glen MOSS (gk), 2.Jacob TRATT, 4.Roly BONEVACIA, 5.Ryan LOWRY, 6.Dylan FOX, 8.Alex RODRIGUEZ, 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10.Michael McGLINCHEY, 11.Hamish WATSON, 12.Adam PARKHOUSE, 13.Marco ROSSI, 17.Vince LIA (c), 19.Tom DOYLE, 20.Lewis ITALIANO (gk), 21.Roy KRISHNA, 23.Matthew RIDENTON, 25.Sarpreet SINGH, 99.Shane SMELTZ

**two to be omitted**

Ins: 12.Adam PARKHOUSE (promoted), 13.Marco ROSSI (returns from injury), 25.Sarpreet SINGH (promoted), 99.Shane SMELTZ (returns from suspension)

Marco Rossi

Outs: 7.Gui FINKLER (suspended - 1 match), 22.Andrew DURANTE (suspended  – 1 match)

Unavailable: Nil

Melbourne City FC squad: 1.Thomas SORENSEN (gk), 2.Manny MUSCAT, 3.Josh ROSE, 6.Osama MALIK, 8.Neil KILKENNY, 9.Nicolas COLAZO, 10.Anthony CACERES, 11.Bruce KAMAU, 12.Nick FITZGERALD, 17.Tim CAHILL, 18.Paulo RETRE, 21.Ruon TONGYIK, 23.Bruno FORNAROLI (c), 26.Luke BRATTAN, 27.Fernando BRANDAN, 34.Denis GENREAU, 36.Dylan PIERIAS, 40.Yaren SOZER (gk)

**two to be omitted**

Ins: 2.Manny MUSCAT (returns from suspension), 6.Osama MALIK (returns from suspension), 17.Tim CAHILL (returns from suspension), 23.Bruno FORNAROLI (returns from suspension), 26.Luke BRATTAN (returns from suspension), 27.Fernando BRANDAN (returns from suspension)

Caltex Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou feels Tim Cahill will have a big impact in the upcoming qualifiers against Iraq and UAE.

Outs: 14.Daniel ARZANI (omitted), 29.Braeydn CROWLEY (omitted), 35.Christian CAVALLO (omitted), 41.Yusuf AHMED (omitted)

Unavailable: 5.Ivan FRANJIC (knee - 1 week), 7.Corey GAMEIRO (ACL - season), 22.Michael JAKOBSEN (calf - 1 week), 20.Dean BOUZANIS (gk) (suspended - 4 matches), 28.Steve KUZMANOVSKI (ACL - season)

BLUFFER’S GUIDE

If Wellington are to play in the Hyundai A-League Finals Series, they will need to start racking up some wins at home. 

Phoenix has managed just two wins from their last six games in New Zealand, not good enough when you consider how much of a fortress Westpac has been for them in the past.

Des Buckingham and Chris Greenacre’s troops start round 20 in eighth spot on 19 points, just two behind the Newcastle Jets and Wanderers in sixth and seventh respectively.

Phoenix interim co-coaches Des Buckingham and Chris Greenacre on the training ground.

But of more concern is they are winless in their last four, including last round’s 3-1 defeat against Sydney FC.

The home side will be without playmaker Gui Finkler for the next fortnight after the Brazilian returned to his homeland following the birth of his daughter, while skipper Andrew Durante is suspended.

For City, they snapped a two-game losing streak with a spirited fightback from 2-0 down against Brisbane Roar last Saturday.

With Perth Glory producing another late-season surge, City’s spot in the top four is under serious threat and this marks the start of a big fortnight for the club.

Following this clash Michael Valkanis’ side then hosts Sydney FC. If they don’t pick up some points in those games, City just might find themselves in a logjam at the bottom end of the top six.

They are boosted by the return of some huge names though with Fornaroli, Cahill, Brattan, Brandan and Muscat among the players in the squad after suspension.

City has won both previous clashes between the clubs this season, including a narrow 1-0 triumph at Westpac in Round 1.

Melbourne City players celebrate Anthony Caceres' opener against the Phoenix.

OPTA DATA

  • Melbourne City have won five of their last six games against Wellington (L1), including each of their last three across which they kept two clean sheets.
  • Wellington Phoenix have scored just one second half goal in their last four games.

Hyundai A-League Round 20 stats preview

ROUTE TO GOAL

City managed to find the net twice last round despite having their three leading scorers watching from the stands (suspended).

But they welcome back key marksmen Fornaroli (12 goals), Cahill (seven) and Brandan (three). That’s a whole lot of firepower. 

While the youngsters showed they were up to the task against Roar, Valkanis is likely to go back to his more experienced stars for a game City simply must win.

Still, you need the right service for Fornaroli and Cahill and that will be up to the likes of increasingly impressive Colazo, Brattan and Kamau to provide the ammunition.

Melbourne City's marquee strikers Bruno Fornaroli and Tim Cahill on the training ground.

For that reason, the midfield battle will be key at Westpac.

One of Wellington’s midfield stars broke his Hyundai A-League goal duck in round 19, with Alex Rodriguez scoring their only goal in the loss to Sydney FC.

It was as good as it got for the Nix, with their normally potent counter-attacking game almost non-existent.

Shane Smeltz – who scored his first goal since his return in his last outing – is back to provide the home side with a genuine goal-scorer.

Shane Smeltz

But look to ex-Victory star Kosta Barbarouses to have a big game.

The Kiwi international hasn’t yet delivered on his potential since his high-profile moves across the Tasman but perhaps a game against his former crosstown rivals will spark him into action.

WHO’S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?

Thomas Sorensen. In just his second start of the season, came up big for City with some crucial saves against Roar, earning a spot in our Team of the Week. But he doesn’t have great memories of Westpac, sent off there in his last visit in Round 1.