Preview: Brisbane Roar v Wellington Phoenix
The Roar will be keen to re-establish Suncorp as a feared venue this season after a few yips during the last campaign but they face a stern test against the persistent Wellington Phoenix.
Date: Sunday August 23 Kick-off: 3:00pm AEST, 5:00pm NZST Venue: Suncorp Stadium TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 3 and Sky Sports 1. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is The Radio Network 1035 AM (Wellington). To purchase tickets visit www.ticktek.com.au
Head-to-head 6 Hyundai A-League meetings: Wins: Brisbane 4, Wellington 0, Draws 2
Previous meeting Brisbane Roar 3, Wellington Phoenix 2, Suncorp Stadium, Round 17, December 2008
Season so far: Brisbane Roar: Round 1: Brisbane Roar 1, Gold Coast United 3, Suncorp Stadium Round 2: Melbourne Victory 3, Brisbane Roar 3, Etihad Stadium
Wellington Phoenix: Round 1: Newcastle Jets 3, Wellington Phoenix 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 2: Wellington Phoenix 2, Perth Glory 1, Westpac Stadium
Analysis: The Brisbane Roar certainly won't be panicking after a winless start to the new campaign but Frank Farina's men will be keen to notch up a win in front of their home crowd against a Wellington side proving to be a very dangerous beast in the post-Smeltz era.
Brisbane may be talking the talk and saying everything's rosy, but one feels the Roar are desperately disappointed they let a two-goal lead slip to Melbourne. The match eventually proved a sensational 3-3 draw, full of classy attacking football and even classier goals from both teams. But peachy football doesn't guarantee three points in the bag and Farina will ensure his side makes amends this weekend.
Despite scoring all their goals in the first half, the Roar's injury woes finally caught up with them late in the match as they struggled to move forward and if this happens again, then the hosts could be badly exposed by a fast-paced Wellington outfit that refuses to say die.
The Roar, though, have lost Josh McLoughan to a groin injury for the next fortnight and injury clouds continue to hover over Danny Tiatto and goalkeeper Liam Reddy. Tiatto may have scored a sizzling opening goal last weekend, but the former Australian international was forced off at half-time as he struggles with persistent back and hamstring issues. While he was named in Farina's squad there is still one name to be omitted and Tiatto is far from certain to play against the Phoenix.
Another Roar player in doubt is Reddy, who continues to struggle with a quad injury that prevented him from taking goal kicks last weekend. Charlie Miller also doesn't look fit, but since when has that stopped the Scotsman?
Despite its worries, Brisbane has some serious firepower at its disposal and once it's up and going, will be hard to stop. Henrique played a blinder against the Victory last weekend and could be the man to break through Wellington's unproven defence, which could have been badly exposed by a misfiring Glory last weekend. Backing up the Brazilian will be the classy Michael Zullo, while Robbie Kruse's quest to make up for a poor 2008-09 is slowly gathering momentum. Of course, the Roar also have the talents of Sergio van Dijk up front to convert their attacks into goals.
Wellington, though, has gone a good way towards proving many of its doubters wrong. Written off at the start of the season after losing Smeltz to Gold Coast United and goalkeeper Glen Moss to Melbourne, the Phoenix were unlucky to lose against Newcastle in Round 1 and claimed the points in style last weekend against the Glory in a 2-1 result. Strikers Chris Greenacre and Paul Ifill seem to be finding their Hyundai A-League feet by the minute and Ifill was unfortunate not to have scored more than once last weekend, as he was repeatedly denied by Tando Velaphi's acrobatic saves during a dominant first half.
But at the heart of almost every Phoenix forward move is that man Leo Bertos. The New Zealand international produced both the assists against Newcastle that led to Wellington's goals, while it was his cross that Ifill converted during the first half. Bertos is one of the most improved players in the league and he has no hesitation attacking opposition defences with his classy runs through the middle. He's also added an extra weapon to his game and that's his deadball delivery, as seen by a monstrous 35-metre free kick that claimed the points for Wellington with five minutes remaining. Without going too far over the top, the free kick was Cristiano Ronaldo-like in its power and accuracy, despite taking a deflection on the way past a stunned Velaphi. It also provided viewers at home with one of the highlights of the season as Phoenix fans took their shirts off on the terraces and celebrated wildly, despite the five-degree conditions and teeming rain on a cold Sunday night by the bay.
Knowing the Roar will come out all guns blazing, Wellington may look to defend during the early stages and catch Brisbane on the counter with its pace through the midfield. If the match goes on and the Roar's injury-plagued squad tires, then Wellington's pace and its ability to bring on speedy subs like Diego may prove the difference. The Roar will be keen to re-establish Suncorp as a feared venue this season, though, after a few yips during the last campaign but they face a stern test against the persistent New Zealanders.
Brisbane Roar squad: 1. Liam REDDY (gk), 3. Luke DEVERE, 4. Craig MOORE (c), 6. David DODD, 7. Michael ZULLO, 9. Sergio VAN DIJK, 10. Charlie MILLER, 12. Matt MUNDY, 13. HENRIQUE, 15. Matt McKAY, 16. Bob MALCOLM, 17. Mitch NICHOLS, 18. Danny TIATTO, 20. Griffin McMASTER (gk), 21. Tommy OAR, 24. Robbie KRUSE.
*one to be omitted*
In: 21. Tommy OAR (promoted)
Out: 5. Josh McCLOUGHAN (groin - 2 weeks)
Unavailable: 2. Andrew PACKER (adductor - 2-3 months), 5. Josh McCLOUGHAN (groin - 2 weeks), 8. Massimo MURDOCCA (fractured leg - 3-4 months)
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. DIEGO, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL. 9. Chris GREENACRE, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 16. David MULLIGAN, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 21. Marco ROJAS, 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 23. Costa BARBAROUSES
*three to be omitted*
In: 16. David MULLIGAN (promoted), 21. Marco ROJAS (promoted), 23. Costa BARBAROUSES (promoted)
Unavailable: 6. Tim BROWN (groin - 1 week), 12. Jiang CHEN (visa)