At New Plymouth's picturesque Yarrow Stadium, two finals-chasing sides lock horns for a vital three points. Can the Nix continue their recent good form or will the Wanderers strike a big blow in the race for the top six?
Saturday, 4 February 2017
Wellington Phoenix v Western Sydney Wanderers FC
Yarrow Stadium (New Plymouth), New Zealand
Kick-Off: 7:35PM (Local) (5:35PM (AEDT))
Referee: Adam Fielding
Assistant Referee 1: Glen Lochrie
Assistant Referee 2: Mark Rule
Fourth Official: Matthew Conger
TV Broadcast: Live coverage on Fox Sports 505 from 5.00pm (AEDT) and Sky Sport 1 (New Zealand)
Radio Broadcast: ABC Radio Canberra, ABC Radio Sydney, ABC Radio NSW, Grandstand Digital Online & via the ABC Radio Mobile App – A-league Live, Hawkesbury Radio
Join the conversation on Twitter using the hash-tag #WELvWSW
To purchase tickets visit www.aleague.com.au
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Glen MOSS (gk), 2.Jacob TRATT, 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), 23.Matthew RIDENTON, 99.Shane SMELTZ
**two to be omitted**
Ins: 12.Adam PARKHOUSE (promoted), 13.Marco ROSSI (returns from suspension)
Western Sydney Wanderers FC squad: 1.Jerrad TYSON (gk), 2.Shannon COLE, 3.Jack CLISBY, 5.Brendan HAMILL, 7.Steven LUSTICA, 8.DIMAS (c), 10.Nicolás MARTÍNEZ, 11.Brendon SANTALAB, 13.Bruno PIÑATARES, 14.Jumpei KUSUKAMI, 15.Kearyn BACCUS, 16.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 17.Aritz BORDA, 18.Robert CORNTHWAITE, 20.Vedran JANJETOVIC (gk), 22.Jonathan ASPROPOTAMITIS, 24.Terry ANTONIS, 29.Ryan GRIFFITHS
**two to be omitted**
Ins: 2.Shannon COLE (promoted), 7.Steven LUSTICA (promoted), 13.Bruno PIÑATARES (promoted), 17.Aritz BORDA (returns from suspension), 29.Ryan GRIFFITHS (new signing)
Outs: 6.Mitch NICHOLS (not selected), 12.Scott NEVILLE (suspended – 1 match), 23.Lachlan SCOTT (not selected)
Two weeks ago, new Phoenix bosses Des Buckingham and Chris Greenacre set their side the target of picking up 25 points from the remaining 12 rounds.
Just two games into that they still need another 24 to reach that goal after a loss to Roar followed by last weekend’s energy-sapping 2-2 draw in the furnace-like conditions in South Australia.
It will be a much more pleasant temperature at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth with the snow-capped mountains offering a picturesque backdrop for the visit of Western Sydney to the North Island.
With the Wanderers one place and one point behind the seventh-placed Phoenix – and with fifth-placed Glory taking on Newcastle Jets in sixth – the winner of this one will jump into the top six.
For Wanderers, last weekend’s last-gasp loss to Brisbane Roar summed up their season so far.
An impressive display for much of the 90 minutes, but punished for their missed chances and mistakes at the back.
Coach Tony Popovic was bullish this week, declaring he still expects his side to play in the grand final this season. Time will tell.
The signing of striker Ryan Griffiths could help and the experienced striker has been included in the squad for the trip across the Tasman. But Mitch Nichols will have to wait at least another week to make his 200th Hyundai A-League appearance after he was left out altogether.
Following this game, the Wanderers have back-to-back home games (against the Mariners and Sydney FC) before their ACL campaign gets underway, so it’s crucial to bank points now if they want to be part of the Finals Series.
ROUTE TO GOAL
Popovic again bemoaned a lack of front-third quality after last week’s loss to Roar and has moved to remedy that with the signing of Griffiths.
The former Jets and Adelaide striker, who joins following a stint playing in Hong Kong, has a good scoring record in the Hyundai A-League, with 20 goals from 60 appearances.
The Wanderers have struggled for goals for much of the campaign and someone with Griffiths’ predatory instincts could be just what’s required to spark their season.
It’s unlikely Popa will leave Nico Martinez on the bench again so he’ll certainly add some creativity in midfield.
The home side has also struggled for goals in the 2016/17 Season with just 20 from their 17 matches.
More than half (nine) of those have come from Fijian star Roy Krishna, who is in a rich vein of form right now.
But he’s been almost a lone-hand when it comes to goals with Hamish Watson, Gui Finkler and Kosta Barbarouses the next best for the Nix with only two.
Could this be the week Shane Smeltz gets in on the scoring act? The Kiwi international has shown glimpses of his ability without finding the net but with his Sydney FC past, would love nothing more than to score against Western Sydney.
WHO’S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?
Ryan Griffiths. The 35-year-old striker has urged fans to judge him on his performances and not his age. How will he go in his first outing in the red and black?
FORM LINES (last five games)
Wellington Phoenix 2-2 Western Sydney Wanderers