Hyundai A-League preview: Phoenix v Sydney FC

Phoenix are still in the hunt for the Hyundai A-League Finals Series. Can the Nix keep the playoff door ajar, or will the rampant Sky Blues slam it shut?

MATCH DETAILS

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Westpac Stadium, Wellington

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

Referee: Shaun Evans

Assistant Referee 1: Simon Lount

Assistant Referee 2: Glen Lochrie

Fourth Official: Alex King

Video Assistant Referee: Jarred Gillett

TV Broadcast: Live coverage on Fox Sports 503 from 5.00pm (AEST) and Sky Sport 3 (New Zealand)

Radio Broadcast: ABC Grandstand Online & via the ABC Radio Mobile App – A-league Live

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

To purchase tickets visit www.aleague.com.au

Hamish Watson

Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Glen MOSS (gk), 4.Roly BONEVACIA, 5.Ryan LOWRY, 7.Gui FINKLER, 8.Alex RODRIGUEZ, 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10.Michael MCGLINCHEY, 11.Hamish WATSON, 12.Adam PARKHOUSE, 13.Marco ROSSI, 17.Vince LIA, 19.Tom DOYLE, 20.Lewis ITALIANO (gk), 21.Roy KRISHNA, 22.Andrew DURANTE (c), 24.Logan ROGERSON, 25.Sarpreet SINGH, 99 Shane SMELTZ **two to be omitted**

Ins: 5.Ryan LOWRY (promoted), 11.Hamish WATSON (promoted), 24.Logan ROGERSON (promoted), 25.Sarpreet SINGH (promoted)

Outs: 6.Dylan FOX (injured), 23.Matthew RIDENTON (injured)

Unavailable: 15.James MCGARRY (glandular fever – indefinite), 16.Louis FENTON (groin – season)

Sydney FC squad: 1.Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 4.Alex WILKINSON, 5.Jordy BUIJS, 7.Michael ZULLO, 8.Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 9.BOBÔ, 10.Milos NINKOVIC, 11.Bernie IBINI, 12.Aaron CALVER, 14.Alex BROSQUE (c), 17.David CARNEY, 18.Matt SIMON, 19.George BLACKWOOD, 20.Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 21.Filip HOLOSKO, 23.Rhyan GRANT, 24.Charles LOKOLINGOY, 28.Nicola KULESKI **two to be omitted**

Ins: 5.Jordy BUIJS (returns from injury), 11.Bernie IBINI (returns from injury), 24.Charles LOKOLINGOY (promoted), 28.Nicola KULESKI (promoted)

Outs: 6.Josh BRILLANTE (suspended – 1 match), 13.Brandon O’NEILL (suspended – 1 match)

Jordy Buijs has impressed since joining Sydney FC in January.

Unavailable: 22.Seb RYALL (hamstring – 1 week).

BLUFFER’S GUIDE

The result of a game between a side which has lost just once all season and another which has been frustratingly inconsistent would appear to be a foregone conclusion.

But Phoenix have found some late-season form and with their Finals Series hopes still alive when this match kicks off, don’t expect anything less than a fully committed Wellington side when they host the runaway Premiers Plate winners.

Buoyed by their head-turning 3-0 win against Victory in Melbourne on Sunday, the Phoenix know three points will put pressure on both Western Sydney Wanderers and Perth Glory later on Saturday evening.

The last time Sydney FC were in Wellington they needed a 90th minute goal from Milos Ninkovic to take all three points home with them.

Graham Arnold admitted afterwards they’d been outplayed for large parts of the game.

Sydney FC players celebrate a goal in their 3-0 win over Perth Glory.

But even without suspended midfielders Josh Brillante and Brandon O’Neill, the Sky Blues will still be warm favourites as they look for a sixth successive win to continue their seemingly inexorable march to Hyundai A-League Grand Final day.

OPTA DATA

* Sydney FC have lost only one of their last seven games against the Phoenix (W4, D2), and have won both meetings this season.

* In fact, the Sky Blues are undefeated in their last four visits to Westpac Stadium (W3, D1) and have conceded just two goals in that period. 

* There have been 17 goals scored in the Phoenix’s last three games at home, nine of which have been scored by the Wellington side. 

* Sydney FC remain undefeated outside of New South Wales so far this season (W6, D2), and have conceded only four goals in those fixtures.

Opta Widget: media:opta:8cdb0f34-87bf-40ee-9b52-d37fe809f5d5

* Wellington have conceded just 24% of their goals from a set-piece so far this season (10 of 41), the lowest percentage of any team in the competition. 

* The Sky Blues have scored 20 goals in the second half when playing away from home, nine more than any other team in the competition. 

* Milos Ninkovic had two shots on target in his last two games against Wellington Phoenix, scoring from both of them.

ROUTE TO GOAL

Last week, Phoenix scored three against Victory, but in reality it could have been more as they missed at least three more golden opportunities to inflate the scoreline late in the game. 

But that’s probably quibbling – the Nix have scored eight unanswered goals in their last two outings and come into their final home game of the season bang in form.

Top scorer Roy Krishna hasn’t netted in his last two games, but he finally has some help in the goalscoring department.

Roly Bonevacia doubled his season tally with two long-range stunners against Victory and is a constant threat from distance.

Kosta Barbarouses and Gui Finkler have also stepped up in the last month taking their respective tallies to five goals apiece.

Kosta Barbarouses starred in Wellington's 5-0 win over the Jets.

After a stellar all-round season, Sydney’s Brazilian striker Bobo has found his goalscoring mojo recently, scoring six times in the last five games, all of which the Sky Blues have won.

Bobo’s support cast is a familiar one; Alex Brosque, Filip Holosko and Milos Ninkovic are all capable of goalscoring heroics.

Even if Phoenix can fend them off, Graham Arnold can always introduce the speedy Bernie Ibini or the robust Matt Simon from the bench.

It’s no wonder Sydney are the Hyundai A-League’s top scorers and the only side to average more than two goals per game.

WHO’S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?

With rumours of a move to Western Sydney swirling around pre-game, Dutch maestro Roly Bonevacia put on a masterclass at AAMI Park to drive Phoenix to a rare win in Victoria.

FORM LINES (last five games)

Wellington Phoenix: WDLWW

Sydney FC: WWWWW

PREDICTION

Wellington 1 Sydney FC 2