Perth Glory v Phoenix: 3 key match-ups

Silky skills and hard-men meet in Perth this weekend in what looms as a ripper between the top two sides separated by a point on the table and 5000 kms on the map.

It’s a top-of-the-table clash a second week running for Glory as the in-form Phoenix head to nib Stadium for a Saturday night blockbuster.

Perth have won both previous clashes this season 2-1 and this one promises to be just as tight in a clash that will go a long way to deciding if one of these two sides will finish with the Premiership.

We look ahead to three crucial match-ups which will could decide which side claims the valuable three points in what should be another intriguing 90 minutes of Hyundai A-League action.

Glory defender Scott Jamieson v Phoenix’s leading-scorer Nathan Burns

Burns seems to have rediscovered his scoring boots in recent weeks, bagging goals in Wellington’s back-to-back wins over Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United.

So vital has the Socceroo attacker been to Phoenix’s success this season, whenever Burns has scored in a match the Kiwi club has gone in to win.

Burns has scored in eight different games this season for eight wins - a telling statistic.

It just emphasis how important it is for Glory to shackle the livewire 26-year-old.

With top spot on the line – and just one goal behind leading scorer Marc Janko – there is plenty of motivation for Burns to continue his hot-streak.

But he won’t find it easy against Jamieson.

The hard-working left-back did what not many others have managed this season and kept Victory’s Kosta Barbarouses quiet last weekend.

While Burns possesses different qualities to the Kiwi flyer, Jamieson has shown he can handle just about anything that’s been put in his path under Kenny Lowe.

Burns is likely to start on the right flank but has a license to roam meaning the entire Glory back-four might be called upon to stop him at different times.

Glory midfielder Nebojsa Marinkovic v Phoenix playmaker Roly Bonevacia

If Bonevacia is Phoenix’s barometer, then Marinkovic is the man for Perth.

There wouldn’t have been many Australian football fans that had heard the name Roly Bonevacia before he was plucked from Holland by Merrick.

But what an impact the Dutchman has made in Phoenix’s rise up the table.

A graduate of Ajax Amsterdam’s ‘total football’ Academy, Bonevacia has certainly brought that philosophy to the Hyundai A-League.

While Janko has got most of the headlines as the marquee import this season, Bonevacia’s impact has arguably been even greater.

The 23-year-old’s added polish and precision to Wellington’s play and has been the ideal link between the teams defence and strike-force.

With Mitch Nichols suspended for this clash, Marinkovic’s role in the middle of the park for Glory becomes even more important.

Renowned for his work in the attacking third and some cracking set-piece goals, the Serbian has added some defensive tenacity to his game under the passionate Lowe.

He adds that bit of class to a Glory outfit built on old fashioned grit, work-rate and discipline.

Can he 'Bend it like Nebo' on set-pieces? Or will Roly rock nib with his own brand of set-piece magic? 

While there are some heavyweight battles all over the pitch, this one stands out and has the ingredients to be a stunner.

Glory striker Andy Keogh v Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante

Strap yourself in; this head-to-head contest won’t be for the faint-hearted.

In one corner is Durante, the tough tackling defender who has built a reputation as one of the most fearsome and well-rounded defenders since the Hyundai A-League’s inception.

And this season, he’s been at his regal best.

On the other side is Keogh; just as physical, adding a real presence to Glory’s forward line to go with his goals.

You can bet these two out-and-out winners and fierce competitors won’t be too far from each other throughout the 90 minutes.

Keogh ended his goal-scoring drought with a well-taken – if not controversial – goal in the 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory last Saturday night.

It will have come as a huge confidence boost for the Irishman who – like Burns on the other side – is still in contention for the Hyundai A-League’s golden-boot.

Durante has always been a leader throughout his career but seems to have taken that to another level during his time in New Zealand.

He is one of the few Phoenix players who know what it takes to win the competition’s major prize and that experience as well as his experience against some top-class strikers makes this one helluva battle.

We can’t wait to see which way this one goes.