Hyundai A-League preview: Phoenix v Victory

Victory can make certain of a playoff spot with a result against a Phoenix side looking to finish the season strongly. Will it be another goal-laden affair between these two, or a slightly cagier tussle in Wellington?

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MATCH DETAILS

Saturday 2 April 2016

Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Victory

Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Kick-Off: 7.15PM (Local) (5.15PM (AEDT))

Referee: Ben Williams

Assistant Referee 1: Mark Rule

Assistant Referee 2: Glen Lochrie

Fourth Official: Alex King

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

Radio Broadcast: Online & via the ABC Radio Mobile App – A-league Live, online via Radio Sport (NZ) and the I-Heart Radio app

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

To purchase tickets visit www.aleague.com.au/tickets 

Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Glen MOSS (GK), 2.Manny MUSCAT, 3.Justin GULLEY, 4.Roly BONEVACIA, 6.Dylan FOX, 8.Alex RODRIGUEZ, 10.Michael MCGLINCHEY, 12.Blake POWELL, 13.Albert RIERA, 16.Louis FENTON, 17.Vince LIA, 18.Ben SIGMUND, 19.Tom DOYLE, 20.Lewis ITALIANO (GK), 21.Roy KRISHNA, 22.Andrew DURANTE (c), 23.Matthew RIDENTON, 26.Hamish WATSON

**two to be omitted**

Ins: 19.Tom DOYLE (returns from suspension)

Phoenix left-back Tom Doyle on the burst against Sydney FC.

Outs: Nil

Unavailable: 14.Alex RUFER (broken leg – season)

Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Danny VUKOVIC (GK), 2.Jason GERIA, 3.Scott GALLOWAY, 5.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 6.Leigh BROXHAM (c), 7.Gui FINKLER, 8.Besart BERISHA, 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 13.Oliver BOZANIC, 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 17.Matthieu DELPIERRE, 19.George HOWARD, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (GK), 21. Carl VALERI, 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 23.Jai INGHAM

**two to be omitted**

Ins: 2.Jason GERIA (returns from international duty), 10.Archie THOMPSON (returns from illness), 19.George HOWARD (promoted), 21.Carl VALERI (returns from illness)

Jason Geria and Yeom Ki Hun challenge for the ball in the ACL on Tuesday night.

Outs: 15.Giancarlo GALLIFUOCO (omitted), 32.Stefan NIGRO (omitted)

Unavailable:  4.Nick ANSELL (quad)

#WELvMVC

BLUFFER’S GUIDE

Barring a catastrophe, Victory will make the top six and give themselves a chance to defend their Hyundai A-League title in what is shaping as one of the most fiercely contested finals series in many years. 

A point here for Melbourne will snuff out any slim chance Sydney FC have of sneaking into the playoffs.

Oliver Bozanic celebrates after scoring the opener for Victory at AAMI Park.

Phoenix have little left to play for this season apart from pride. Their campaign has been wracked by inconsistency, best demonstrated by the fact they've beaten every team in the top six, but haven't won consecutive games all season. 

One fascinating sub-text to this contest is the fact Victory attackers Kosta Barbarouses and Gui Finkler will play against their future employers, having both signed deals with the Phoenix in recent weeks for next season and beyond.

OPTA DATA

- Wellington Phoenix were victorious in their last encounter with Victory and will be aiming for consecutive wins against them for the first time in A-League history.

- Wellington have won only one of their last five matches at home and have lost their last two. A third straight home loss would equal the club record set at the beginning of the 2014/15 season.

- There have been 22 goals scored in Melbourne Victory’s last five games away from home, though they’ve scored only nine of them.

- Wellington have scored 61% of their goals in the first half – a league high proportion – with 24% of their goals coming in the opening 15 minutes, also a league high figure.

- Only Sydney FC (414) have given away more fouls in the A-League this season than Kevin Muscat’s side (405).

ROUTE TO GOAL

Victory have fewer goalscorers this season than any other side (six), but still possess one of the deadliest marksmen in the competition in Besart Berisha. 

The Albanian has scored 16 times this season and now has 79 Hyundai A-League goals, leaving him now just 11 short of the all-time mark held by team-mate Archie Thompson. 

Besart Berisha

Victory aren't short of attacking threats; Kosta Barbarouses, Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Gui Finkler all have eye-catching ability in the front third.

Phoenix offered next to nothing in front of goal against Melbourne City on Easter Monday and will need to be much, much better to trouble what has been a reasonably miserly Victory defence this season. 

The last time the two met on what was dubbed "The Sandpit" at QBE Stadium on Auckland's North Shore in December, Roy Krishna and Roly Bonevacia were the Phoenix's goalscorers. 

Krishna made a welcome return to the Phoenix last weekend after three months out with injury, but is still well short of a gallop while the talented Bonevacia has been tightly shackled for much of the season. 

Wellington Phoenix have re-signed Roy Krishna until 2018.

Hamish Watson and Blake Powell have looked good in patches, but haven't found the consistency needed to push their side toward the playoff spots.

WHO’S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?

Having last played in late November, Victory skipper Carl Valeri has been cleared to travel to Wellington after recovering from an inflammatory condition affecting part of his brain. 

FORM LINES

Wellington Phoenix: WLWLL

Melbourne Victory: DWLDW

PREDICTION

Wellington Phoenix 1 Melbourne Victory 2