Preview: Perth v Wellington
It's the business end of the season and games don't get any bigger than this fifth versus sixth clash at ME Bank Stadium.
Date: Friday January 22 Kick-off: 7:00pm AWST, 12:00am NZST, 10:00pm AEDT Venue: ME Bank Stadium TV and Radio: Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1, 1 HD and Sky Sport 3. Hyundai A-League club radio broadcast partner is 6PR (Perth) 882AM. To purchase tickets visit www.ticketmaster.com.
Head-to-head 8 Hyundai A-League meetings: Wins: Perth Glory 2, Wellington 4, Draws 2
Previous Meeting Wellington Phoenix 1, Perth Glory 2, Westpac Stadium, Round 14, November 2009
Last five rounds: Perth Glory: Round 20: Gold Coast United 2, Perth Glory 0, Skilled Park Round 21: Perth Glory 4, Newcastle Jets 0, ME Bank Stadium Round 22: Perth Glory 0, Sydney FC 0, ME Bank Stadium Round 23: Melbourne Victory 6, Perth Glory 2, Etihad Stadium Round 19: Adelaide United 2, Perth Glory 3, Hindmarsh Stadium
Wellington Phoenix: Round 18: Wellington Phoenix 0, Sydney FC 1, FMG Stadium Round 20: Adelaide United 1, Wellington Phoenix 1, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 21: Central Coast 0, Wellington Phoenix 2, Bluetongue Stadium Round 22: Wellington Phoenix 3, Brisbane Roar 1, Westpac Stadium Round 23: Wellington Phoenix 3, North Queensland Fury 0, Westpac Stadium
Analysis: It's the business end of the season and games don't get any bigger than this fifth versus sixth clash at ME Bank Stadium, where the result will have a massive important on teams competing and the four teams sitting outside the top six.
Indeed, Central Coast (seventh), Brisbane (eighth), North Queensland (ninth) and maybe even last-placed Adelaide will be desperately hoping for a Wellington win as this ensures sixth-placed Perth remains vulnerable to challenges from below. This is particularly so, because both Brisbane and Central Coast play the Glory in the last few rounds and will be desperate to try and erode the four-point buffer Perth has established between itself and those two teams. However, a Glory win will see the Western Australians climb into fifth, seven points clear of the bottom four, leaving Wellington somewhat vulnerable as it drops to sixth.
As one can see, the stakes will certainly be high when these teams take the field, especially as Wellington is just starting a rapid-fire road trip, where it has to go on and play in-form Melbourne Victory at Etihad Stadium on Australia Day.
But regardless of table permutations, the focus of all attention in this game will be the big fella up front for the Phoenix, Eugene Dadi.
The former Glory striker, who still lives in Perth, has become an instant cult hero at Wellington, scoring three goals in big wins over Brisbane and North Queensland over the past two rounds. Dadi was disappointed to leave Perth at the start of the month after finding himself frozen out of the Glory's starting XI by the pre-season recruiting of Branko Jelic and Mile Sterjovski. But he's found a welcome home in New Zealand and will be desperate to show former coach Dave Mitchell exactly what he's given up as he looks to help Wellington extend its winning run to four matches, a result that will almost seal the club's first Hyundai A-League finals' appearance.
Wellington coach, Ricki Herbert will be hoping Dadi doesn't get emotionally distracted by playing against his former team-mates at what was once a happy hunting ground for him. In case he does though, the Phoenix have been able to bring English striker Chris Greenacre back into the extended squad from a four-match injury lay-off, along with Daniel, Diego and Marco Rojas. But more concerning for Herbert will be a re-shuffled back four that will be missing Tony Lochhead, who's picked up a slight groin strain. Lochhead's injury will force midfielder Troy Hearfield into an unusual position at left back, while Ben Sigmund comes in on the right after struggling to make the starting XI following a three-match suspension.
If the re-jigged defence doesn't settle then Perth may have the firepower to expose it. When the Glory get on a roll it's evident they can score quickly, as they did against Newcastle in a 4-0 Boxing Day result and also against Adelaide during Tuesday night's massive 3-2 come-from-behind win. Coming off a 6-2 thrashing and 2-0 down, many fans thought the Glory's season may have been shot. But when Iain Fyfe was controversially dismissed, Glory skipper Jacob Burns produced a stunning captain's game as he scored twice before new signing Daniel McBreen nailed the winner.
Within 15 minutes the Glory had revived their push for an inaugural finals' position and all-but destroyed Adelaide's hopes. But coach Dave Mitchell will be looking to mend the club's defence, which has conceded eight goals in the past two games after only shipping 22 in the previous 21 matches. What had been the club's biggest asset has become a slight weakness and the Glory will be looking to tighten considerably in front of its home crowd. However, whether the squad can cope with its third game in six days remains to be seen. Jamie Harnwell and Naum Sekulovski have been included in the team but both are under injury clouds, while Burns was also forced to do light training on Thursday. But the Western Australians will know that a victory here will almost certainly see them through to the post-season and there's no bigger incentive than that.
Perth Glory Squad: 1.Tando VELAPHI (gk), 2.Danny McBreen, 3.Jamie COYNE, 4.Andy TODD, 5.Jamie HARNWELL, 6.Chris COYNE, 7. Jacob BURNS (c), 11. Branko JELIC, 12.Scott NEVILLE, 13.Scott BULLOCH, 14. Steven McGARRY, 16.Adriano PELLEGRINO, 17.Todd HOWARTH, 19.Naum SEKULOVSKI, 20.Aleks VRTESKI (gk), 21.Mile STERJOVSKI, 23.Andrija JUKIC
*two to be omitted*
In: Jamie HARNWELL (returns from injury) Naum SEKULOVSKI (returns from injury)
Unavailable: Wayne SRHOJ (Knee - 1 week), Viktor SIKORA (Thigh - 1 week)
Wellington Phoenix squad: 2. Manny MUSCAT, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. DIEGO, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE, 11. DANIEL, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 14. Adrian CACERES, 15. Eugene DADI, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 23. Costa BARBAROUSES, 40. Liam REDDY (gk)
*two to be omitted*
In: Chris GREENACRE (return from injury), Marco ROJAS (promoted), DANIEL (promoted) DIEGO (promoted)
Out: Tony LOCHHEAD (groin - 2 weeks)
Unavailable: Mark PASTON (gk) (leg - season)