Preview: Melbourne Victory v Wellington Phoenix
Melbourne striker Archie Thompson predicted that Wellington will 'park the bus' in an attempt to get a draw out of the game, but defensive football is not really part of Ricki Herbert's mindset.
Date: Sunday September 13 Kick-off: 3:00pm AEST Venue: Etihad Stadium, Melbourne TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sports 1. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is 774 ABC (Melbourne) and The Radio Network 1035 AM (Wellington). To purchase tickets visit www.ticketmaster.com.au
Head-to-head Played 6: Wins: Melbourne 3, Wellington 1. Draws: 2
Previous meeting Melbourne Victory 2, Wellington Phoenix 0, Round 21, January 2009
Season so far: Melbourne Victory: Round 1: Melbourne Victory 0, Central Coast Mariners 2, Etihad Stadium Round 2: Melbourne Victory 3, Brisbane Roar 3, Etihad Stadium Round 3: North Queensland Fury 1, Melbourne Victory 0, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 4: Perth Glory 2, Melbourne Victory 1, ME Bank Stadium Round 5: Melbourne Victory 1, Newcastle Jets 1, Etihad Stadium
Wellington Phoenix: Round 1: Newcastle Jets 3, Wellington Phoenix 2, EnergyAustralia Stadium, Round 2: Wellington Phoenix 2, Perth Glory 1, Westpac Stadium, Round 3: Brisbane Roar 1, Wellington Phoenix 1, Suncorp Stadium Round 4: Sydney FC 2, Wellington Phoenix 0, Sydney Football Stadium Round 5: Wellington Phoenix 1, Adelaide United 1, Westpac Stadium
Analysis: Melbourne may have played some good football over the past five weeks, but the fact the defending champion has only managed five points in that time, and just two from three home games, demonstrates that style is no use unless you can finish.
Having dominated Newcastle in its previous match only to let the Jets score a late equaliser, Melbourne will be determined to take three points from this one and get its first home win of the season. The concern for Melbourne is that if it is to shrug off this slow start to the season, it will have to do so without two of the players instrumental to its championship winning 2008/09 season.
Danny Allsopp has headed off to the riches of the Middle East, while Billy Celeski is contemplating a season on the sidelines after rupturing his ACL early in the clash against Newcastle. Calling for re-enforcements, Melbourne has signed former Brisbane dynamo Robbie Kruse and one of its most impressive youth league products in Mate Dugandzic.
Costa Rican Carlos Hernandez returns to the squad after missing last match through international duty. He only played 50 minutes over the two games, but will have a couple of days to get over the flight and should be fresh enough. Kevin Muscat is also a chance to return form the hamstring injury he suffered in Round 1. While finding a spot for the skipper to play might provide Ernie Merrick with some headaches given Adrian Leijer is now back, Victory have missed his leadership in his absence.
Grant Brebner is likely to fill the spot vacated by Celeski, while Ney Fabiano played in Allsopp's absence last time and should do the same again.
Wellington comes into this match having taken a point at home against Adelaide last week. It's hard to get an exact read on where the Phoenix are at, at the moment, but Paul Ifill continues to make an impression, having scored in that match.
The Barbadian striker, who had a second goal ruled out for offside, has adapted to the physical style of the Hyundai A-League well and has helped fill the gap left by Shane Smeltz, while Chris Greenacre has also been useful. Leo Bertos has been the standout player for the club and provided the pass for the goal last week.
The concern is the defence, which conceded again from a set piece last week. Ricki Herbert, who has been in Amman with the All Whites this week, gets back Manny Muscat from international duty while Jiang Chen, David Mulligan, Marco Rojas and Costa Barbarouses come into an extended squad. Former Victory midfielder Adrian Caceres won't front up against his old club as a he has a hamstring strain.
Wellington has only ever played at Etihad Stadium on three prior occasions, the last two resulting in comfortable wins for the home side. Last season's clash, in the final round, proved decisive for Melbourne which scored a late goal through Archie Thompson which secured it the premiership. The Phoenix's only win over Melbourne in six attempts came in November last year in Wellington.
Thompson predicted early this week that Wellington will 'park the bus' in an attempt to get a draw out of the game, but defensive football is not really part of Herbert's mindset. Melbourne needs the three points here, as anything less than eight from its first six, four of which would have been at home, will have the alarm bells ringing.
Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (c), 5.Surat SUKHA, 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 13.Nathan ELASI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Matthew FOSCHINI, 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 22.Nick WARD, 23.Adrian LEIJER *one to be omitted*
In: Carlos HERNANDEZ (return from international duty), Kevin MUSCAT (return from injury)
Out: Billy CELESKI (knee - season)
Unavailable: Evan BERGER (groin - 2 weeks)
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. DIEGO, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL. 9. Chris GREENACRE, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 12. Jiang CHEN, 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 *five to be omitted*
In: Manny MUSCAT (return from international duty), Jiang CHEN (promoted), David MULLIGAN (promoted), Marco ROJAS (promoted), Costa BARBAROUSES (promoted)
Unavailable: Adrian CACERES (hamstring - 1 week)