Wellington have always struggled in the Victorian capital
Date: Saturday January 5, 2013 Kick-off: 7:45pm AEDT Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Head-to-head Played 16: Wins: Melbourne Victory 9, Wellington Phoenix 2, Draws: 5 Previous encounter Victory 3, Phoenix 2, November 5 2012
Form: Past five matches: Melbourne Victory: LDWWL Newcastle Jets: LLDWL
The Game The Phoenix and Victory will be looking to bounce back from losses on New Year's Day but both sides might need to do so without some key personnel. Melbourne Victory lost just their second game in the past 10 matches when they fell to a Shinji Ono double in Tuesday's 2-1 loss to Western Sydney. Even though it was a narrow defeat in an entertaining encounter, Victory coach Ange Postecoglou roasted his players for lacking the discipline needed to stick with the game plan. However, part of the problem for Victory in doing this was an early knee injury to key midfielder Gui Finkler.
Despite Finkler's injury, Wellington appear in a far worse position as they look to win their first game over Victory in Melbourne. On top of youngster Tyler Boyd's red card and suspension, the Phoenix have numerous injury worries as Leo Bertos and Alex Smith both copped heavy knocks to their faces in Tuesday's 2-1 loss to Brisbane Roar. Both players will need scans but there are fears they may have both sustained cheek bone fractures. On top of this, defensive midfielder Manny Muscat may also be examined by the match review panel for an incident involving Brisbane Roar's Nick Fitzgerald, further putting the heat on Wellington's back-ups heading into this big match.
The big issue Melbourne Victory - Victory will probably need to find a way to win without Brazilian midfield maestro Finkler, who suffered what is believed to be a medial ligament strain in the loss to Wanderers - an injury that Postecoglou said after the match 'didn't look good'. However, Victory will still be boosted somewhat for this encounter by the return of defensive midfielder Mark Milligan, who has been so instrumental in most of the Melbourne side's wins this season as he protects the defence and distributes the ball well, enabling Victory to produce their rapid-fire counter-attacking style.
Wellington Phoenix - As already mentioned, coach Ricki Herbert has more than a few selection headaches as he looks to patch up his side and bring reinforcements in from New Zealand. Looks like the famed Wellington Phoenix academy we seem to hear so much of on this side of the Tasman, will get another workout.
Gamebreaker Marco Rojas - Although Rojas and Archie Thompson didn't quite have their radars working in the loss to Western Sydney, there's no doubt the Victory's strike force will look to bounce back in this encounter in front of their home crowd. Rojas has been in superlative form throughout this season and has really lifted a cog as so many do under Postecoglou's tutelage. The first real sign of this was when he scored a brilliant double against his former side Wellington in last November's thrilling 3-2 win. That night was the perfect way for him to celebrate his 21st birthday and he'll be looking for a belated New Year's celebration in this encounter.
Wellington Phoenix - In the absence of Paul Ifill and with former key goalscorers Tim Brown and Chris Greenacre now out to pasture, the attacking void at Wellington has been ably filled by Brockie this season, even if he can't do it all by himself. Brockie scored his ninth goal from the last 10 games in the loss to Brisbane and what a cracker it was as he drove the ball in from 30 metres.
Prediction Melbourne 3 -1 Wellington Wellington have always struggled in the Victorian capital and at present we cannot see this changing too much in this encounter. With the injuries mounting and the Phoenix having one just one of their last five games - that was against the struggling Melbourne Heart - Ricki Herbert's men would have to pull off something of a miracle to get the better of Victory in this encounter. Victory are still vulnerable at the back, despite having Milligan protecting the back four from midfield, and the Melbourne side are probably good things to concede a goal. But Victory will also possible put three in themselves as they test an undermanned Phoenix defence.