Preview: Sydney FC v Wellington Phoenix
Sydney's position on top of the Hyundai A-League ladder is as much to do with its consistency as anything else, but this Sunday it confronts one of the great enigmas of the competition, Wellington, which is coming off the greatest win in its short history.
Date: Sunday November 1
Kick-off: 5:00pm AEDT (7:00pm NZDT)
Venue: Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney
TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 1 and Sky Sports 1. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is The Radio Network 1035 AM (Wellington). To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.com.au
Head-to-head Played 3: Wins: Sydney FC 3, Wellington Phoenix 3. Draws: 1
Previous meeting Sydney FC 2, Wellington Phoenix 0, Round 4, August 2009
Sydney FC: Round 8: Brisbane Roar 1, Sydney FC 0, Suncorp Stadium Round 9: Sydney FC 1, Central Coast Mariners 0, Sydney Football Stadium Round 10: Melbourne Victory 0, Sydney FC 3, Etihad Stadium Round 11: Adelaide United 2, Sydney FC 1, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 12: Sydney FC 2, Brisbane Roar 1, Sydney Football Stadium
Wellington Phoenix: Round 7: Wellington Phoenix 1, North Queensland Fury 1, Westpac Stadium Round 8: Wellington Phoenix 0, Central Coast Mariners 0, Westpac Stadium Round 9: Gold Coast United 0, Wellington Phoenix 0, Skilled Park Round 11: North Queensland 1, Wellington Phoenix 1, Dairy Farmers Stadium Round 12: Wellington Phoenix 6, Gold Coast United 0, Westpac Stadium
Analysis: Sydney's position on top of the Hyundai A-League ladder is as much to do with its consistency as anything else, but this Sunday it confronts one of the great enigmas of the competition, Wellington, which is coming off the greatest win in its short history.
Like all successful teams, Sydney's dominance this year has been built on a strong home record with five wins and a loss from six games at the SFS this season. In the style that has become familiar this season, only one of those wins has been by more than a one goal margin. The Sky Blues under Vitezslav Lavicka are all about getting the job done and with 22 points from 12 matches, they are certainly doing that.
The measure of a good team is not necessarily all about continually winning games, it is about how a team bounces back from a poor performance. Coming off its worst effort of the season in Adelaide, Sydney ground out a 2-1 win over Brisbane last week thanks to goals from Alex Brosque and Karol Kisel.
Brosque has hit some reasonable form in October, scoring two goals in three matches and it appears that like Simon Colosimo, he has grown as a player under Lavicka's reign.
Sydney goes into this match minus only Stephan Keller from its best XI and has included youngsters Kofi Danning and Brendan Gan.
Wellington's 6-0 romp against Gold Coast last week left most Hyundai A-League fans a little speechless. The completely dominant performance, helped by some shocking defence from Gold Coast, seemed to come out of nowhere, with the Phoenix going into that match off a run of six consecutive draws.
Any suggestion that the club lacked killer instinct was put to bed as Wellington turned a positive first half into the equal biggest win in the history of the Hyundai A-League. At the heart of the success was Paul Ifill, who set up three goals and scored one himself. The Barbados striker has been a superb pick up by Ricki Herbert as he offers so much more than just someone to put the ball in the net.
As opposed to last season, when Wellington relied largely on one player to score, the Phoenix have had seven separate goalscorers this year, five of whom have now scored more than one goal. What that means is that they are a much less predictable side going forward, and that makes it harder for opposition teams to stop them.
The resurgence of the Phoenix is built on an imposing home record. It is now 12 months since Wellington last lost at Westpac Stadium, but Herbert knows they need to take that on the road having not won away since November 7 last year (against Sydney). This season's away form has been reasonably solid, with four draws and two losses, but if the Phoenix want to bridge the gap to the top six, they have to pick up a few wins on the road. Having won two of its four matches at the SFS may help the confidence ahead of this match.
Jon McKain, who will miss another four weeks with groin injury, is the only player missing from Wellington's best team, with Ricki Herbert including Marco Rojas and Costa Barbarouses into an extended squad.
Sydney FC squad: 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 2. Sebastian RYALL, 4. Simon COLOSIMO, 6. Karol KISEL, 7 Brendan GAN, 8. Stuart MUSIALIK, 9. John ALOISI, 10. Steve CORICA (c), 11. Kofi DANNING, 12. Shannon COLE, 14. Alex BROSQUE, 15. Terry MCFLYNN, 17. Matthew JURMAN, 19. Mark BRIDGE, 20. Ivan NECEVSKI (gk), 22. Sung Hwan BYUN, 23. Rhyan GRANT. *two to be omitted*
In: Kofi DANNING (promoted), Brendan GAN (promoted)
Unavailable: Stephan KELLER (knee - 1 week), Mitchell PRENTICE (back - 1 week)
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE, 11. DANIEL, 12. Jiang CHEN, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 14. Adrian CACERES, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 21. Marco ROJAS, 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 23. Costa BARBAROUSES *two to be omitted*
In: 21. Marco ROJAS (promoted), 23. Costa BARBAROUSES (promoted)
Unavailable: Jon McKAIN (quad - 4 weeks)