Preview: Melbourne Victory v Wellington Phoenix
There are something like 15 different permutations which could affect the make-up of the Hyundai A-League finals series, but for Wellington Phoenix, only one result is good enough for them to make their first-ever appearance in the post-season.
Date: Friday January 23 Kick-off: 8:00pm AEDT Venue: Telstra Dome, Melbourne
TV and Radio: Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1 and Sky Sport 3. Hyundai A-League club radio broadcast partner is SEN (Melbourne) 1116AM and Radio Network (Wellington) 1035AM. To purchase tickets visit www.ticketmaster.com.au
Head-to-head 5 A-League meetings: Melbourne Victory - 2 wins, Wellington - 2 wins, Draws - 2
Previous meeting Wellington Phoenix 2, Melbourne Victory 1, Westpac Stadium, Round 13, November 2008
Past Five Matches Melbourne Round 17: Melbourne Victory 3, Sydney FC 2, Telstra Dome Round 18: Melbourne Victory 2, Queensland Roar 1, Telstra Dome Round 15: Melbourne Victory 1, Adelaide United 0, Telstra Dome Round 19: Perth Glory 3, Melbourne Victory 2, Members Equity Stadium Round 20: Melbourne Victory 3, Central Coast Mariners 0, Telstra Dome
Wellington Phoenix: Round 15: Wellington Phoenix 1, Perth Glory 1, Westpac Stadium Round 16: Wellington Phoenix 1, Central Coast Mariners 0, Westpac Stadium Round 17: Queensland Roar 3, Wellington Phoenix 2, Suncorp Stadium Round 18: Wellington Phoenix 3, Newcastle Jets 0, Westpac Stadium Round 19: Sydney FC 1, Wellington Phoenix 0, SFS Round 20: Wellington Phoenix 1, Adelaide United 1, Telstra Dome
Analysis There are something like 15 different permutations which could affect the make-up of the Hyundai A-League finals series, but for Wellington Phoenix, only one result is good enough for them to make their first-ever appearance in the post-season.
Ricki Herbert's men need nothing short of a win in this match to keep their hopes alive, and then need Central Coast to lose to Adelaide on Sunday. But getting three points against a team which is on a five-game home winning streak and is gunning for top spot on the table will be no easy task.
Wellington has been to Telstra Dome just twice and has not made a trip to the Victorian capital since December 2007. It will be unfamiliar ground for a few of the Phoenix players, making for an even more difficult challenge. Wellington wouldn't have played in front of a crowd like this in some time. No doubt Herbert will attack, but he will be wary of how dangerous Melbourne is on the counter-attack with Archie Thompson and Carlos Hernandez. Andrew Durante returns to the squad while Tim Brown misses out through suspension.
Ernie Merrick insists his side won't change their approach in this match, but there will be extra pressure on the Victory's in-form strikers to get an early goal and force Wellington to attack. That will allow more space for Thompson, Hernandez and Danny Allsopp to attack and Melbourne to rack up a big win and put the pressure on Adelaide to do the same against the Mariners.
Matthew Kemp comes back into an extended squad and will likely press for first-team selection with Merrick admitting he will go for an attacking line-up.
The other prize on the line here is possibly the Golden Boot with Shane Smeltz currently leading Danny Allsopp by one going into this match. Allsopp has scored three times in two matches against the Phoenix this year while Smeltz has done the same to Melbourne.
The five clashes between these two teams have yielded 18 goals and with attack the only way both the Victory and the Phoenix are going to achieve their aims this week then expect plenty of action and fireworks.
Melbourne Victory Squad 1.Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (Captain), 3.Michael THWAITE, 5.Sebastian RYALL, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 9.Danny ALLSOPP, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 14.Billy CELESKI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Jose Luis LOPEZ, 20.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 22.Nick WARD *One to be omitted.
In. Matthew KEMP (return from suspension). Out. Nil. Unavailable. Nil.
Wellington Phoenix Squad 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Jeremy CHRISTIE, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. Karl DODD, 7. Leo BERTOS, 9. Shane SMELTZ, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 15. Adam KWASNIK, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Glen MOSS (gk), 22. Andrew DURANTE, 23. Costa BARBAROUSES, 25. Manny MUSCAT.
In. 22. Andrew DURANTE (return from injury).
Out. 6. Tim BROWN (suspended - 1 week).
Unavailable. 13. Troy HEARFIELD (suspended - 1 week), 17. Vince LIA (knee - season).