The Phoenix will be brave and resolute, as they are in just about every match, but with so many things going against them this weekend, I think Perth may continue the running run.
Date: Sunday, October 23 Kick-off: 7.30pm AEDT, 4.30pm AWST Venue: nib Stadium
Head-to-head Played 13: Wellington 7, Perth 4, Draws: 2
Previous encounter Wellington Phoenix 4 - Perth Glory 0, Westpac Stadium, January 2011
History: These sides have fought out some intense battles, but it's the Phoenix who come out on top, having won four of the last seven games. One of those clashes was only technically a win, however, as Wellington needed a penalty shoot-out to qualify from an elimination final against Glory during the 2009-10 season after extra-time finished at 1-1. That 2009-10 campaign also saw the most memorable moment occur out all matches between these two sides when ex-Glory striker Eugene Dadi stepped up to take a penalty against Perth in January 2010. Despite the Phoenix being 2-0 down at the time, Dadi, angered by his treatment at the hands of former coach Dave Mitchell, opted to showboat as he dinked a cute little penalty home. The problem was he missed and Glory went on to claim a 2-0 win that helped them earn a place in the finals for the first time. Last season, though, the Glory may have won the first encounter against Wellington, but Ricki Herbert's men secured a 1-0 result on the road through a Tim Brown cracker last November, before utterly destroying Perth when the Glory travelled to Wellington for a rainy Sunday afternoon clash last January.
Form: Matches so far: Perth: WW Wellington: DW
Perth dominated their opening-week encounter against Adelaide United but couldn't put the ball in the net until Billy Mehmet stepped up with a 77th-minute header. Last weekend's win over Melbourne Heart wasn't quite so impressive for Perth, however, as they regularly conceded possession and territory to the Victorian side. But they made the most of their chances as Shane Smeltz's double saw Perth win 2-1, their first away win since August last year.
Wellington, meanwhile, have defied the sceptics and the fact they barely have a squad to remain unbeaten so far this campaign. Were it not for a cracking goal from Gold Coast's James Brown, the Phoenix could possibly have two wins under their belt as well. Last weekend, they showed off their habitual dominance at Westpac Stadium by easily accounting for Newcastle 2-0. It was the usual suspects that scored the goals as Tim Brown and Daniel found the back of the net, in a performance made all the more meritorious as Wellington lost Paul Ifill to an early injury and also finished with just nine players on the park.
Match Committee: Glory don't have too many injury worries so early in the season. Defender Josh Mitchell will be a chance to return after missing last week with an ankle injury. Adam Hughes is recovering from a virus and has started training but may miss another match. However, the main worry Glory have is reserve goalkeeper Neil Young, who needed abdominal surgery last weekend. Poor old Young has a history of abdominal issues after suffering a bowel infection a few years back, and he could miss a fair chunk of the year.
For Wellington, their main issue is that vice-captain Brown has been suspended for this match. Brown picked up a controversial second yellow card for time-wasting late last week, and his automatic one-week suspension cannot be rescinded by the FFA. No such problems for Nick Ward, though, whose straight dismissal was expunged from the record, allowing him to play. Coach Ricki Herbert also has significant worries with Paul Ifill's groin injury, while goalkeeper Mark Paston (stomach) will also probably miss.
Danger men: Shane Smeltz - One of the more prolific scorers the country has ever seen, the Kiwi international may have swapped shirts but still keeps banging in the goals. Last week, he nailed a double from limited opportunities.
Daniel - Forced to come on as a 14th-minute substitute after Paul Ifill was subbed off, Daniel started on the left flank, before switching to the right with great effect. The Brazilian may have spurned a couple of chances during the first half but he made up for it as he drilled home the second goal on the hour.
At the end of the day… The Phoenix may be somewhat depleted, but they're still one of the form sides of the competition and could give the Glory a real early-season test when they face off on Sunday afternoon at nib Stadium.
The problem for Wellington, though, is that this is one of the toughest road trips in world football. Not only do the Phoenix need to spend almost 10 hours on a plane, but there's also a five-hour time difference between Western Australia and New Zealand as a result of Perth's stranger-danger approach to daylight savings. On top of all that travel, the Phoenix also have to contend with a partisan crowd and the fact, the Glory, even in the midst of all their troubles last season, consider nib Stadium a real fortress and play accordingly.
The loss of Brown is also a massive blow. The Wellington vice-captain and New Zealand international has that ability to spring a goal from nowhere. Exacerbating the loss of Brown from a creative perspective, is Ifill's expected absence. It hardly seems a wise move for Ricki Herbert to risk Ifill by forcing him on a plane for 10 hours, especially with so much of the season to come. However, while the Phoenix attack force will be weakened, they still have the talents of Leo Bertos and Chris Greenacre at their disposal, with Bertos in particular relishing playing against one of his former clubs.
All that being said, the Glory appear to have a defence that's capable of marshalling a light-on Wellington attack, while the Phoenix defenders will have to be on their toes as well when it comes to dealing with the attacking threat of Andrezinho, Mehmet, former Phoenix man Smeltz and Travis Dodd. Throw in Liam Miller's quality disposal and Perth seem to have the ability to unpick the Wellington lock. The Phoenix will be brave and resolute, as they are in just about every match, but with so many things going against them this weekend, I think Perth may continue the running run.
Perth Glory Squad: 1.Danny Vukovic, 2.Josh Mitchell, 3.Bas Van Den Brink, 4.Billy Mehmet, 6.Chris Coyne, 7.Jacob Burns, 8.Adam Hughes, 9.Shane Smeltz, 10.Liam Miller, 12.Scott Neville, 13.Travis Dodd, 14.Steven Mcgarry, 15.Tommy Amphlett, 17.Todd Howarth, 18.Jesse Makarounas, 19.Josh Risdon, 21.Mile Sterjovski, 22.Adam Taggart, 27.Andrezinho, 30. Lewis Italiano **6 To Be Omitted**
In: 2.Josh Mitchell, 8.Adam Hughes, 16.Evan Berger, 18.Jesse Makarounas, 21.Mile Sterjovski, 22.Adam Taggart Out: Neil Young (Abdominal Injury) Unavailable: 11.Victor Sikora (Hip - Long Term Injury List)
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Mark Paston (gk), 2. Manny Muscat. 3. Tony Lochhead, 4. Brent Griffiths, 7. Leo Bertos, 9. Chris Greenacre, 11. Daniel, 12. Nicky Ward, 13. Niko Tsattalios, 15. Cameron Lindsay, 18. Ben Sigmund, 19. Jimmy Downey, 20. Tony Warner, 21. Dani Sanchez, 22. Andrew Durante, 24 Alex Smith *one to be omitted*
In: Cameron Lindsay, Niko Tsattalios, Jimmy Downey (all promoted) Out: 6. Tim Brown (suspended - 1 match), 8. Paul Ifill (groin - 2-4 weeks) Unavailable: Lucas Pantelis (ACL rupture, indefinite), Mirjan Pavlovic (Broken arm, 8 to 10 weeks), Vince Lia (knee, indefinite)