Preview: Sydney v Wellington
It might have qualified for the Asian Champions League after winning the Hyundai A-League minor premiership, but Sydney knows it will be left with a hollow feeling unless it reaches the grand final.
Date: Saturday, March 13 Kick-off: 8pm AEDT Venue: Sydney Football Stadium TV and Radio: Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 3/3 HD and Sky Sport 2. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is ABC Radio (Sydney) and The Radio Network 1035 AM (Wellington). To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.com.au
Head-to-head Played 9: Wellington Phoenix wins 3, Sydney FC wins 5 (1 draw)
Previous Meeting Wellington 0, Sydney 1, FMG Stadium, round 18
Past five matches: Sydney FC: Round 25: Brisbane Roar 1, Sydney FC 0, Suncorp Stadium Round 26: Sydney FC 3, Perth Glory 2, Sydney Football Stadium Round 27: Sydney FC 2, Melbourne Victory 0, Sydney Football Stadium MSF - 1st Leg: Melbourne Victory 2, Sydney FC 1, Etihad Stadium MSF - 2nd Leg: Sydney FC 2, Melbourne Victory 2, SFS
Wellington: Round 25: Wellington Phoenix 1, Adelaide United 0, AMI Stadium, Christchurch Round 26: Gold Coast United 0, Wellington Phoenix 1, Skilled Park, Gold Coast Round 27: Wellington Phoenix 3, Central Coast Mariners 0, Westpac Stadium Minor semi-final: Wellington Phoenix 1 Perth Glory 1 (4-2 penalties) Westpac Stadium Minor semi-final: Wellington 3, Newcastle 1, Westpac Stadium
Analysis: It might have qualified for the Asian Champions League after winning the Hyundai A-League minor premiership, but Sydney knows it will be left with a hollow feeling unless it reaches the grand final.
Striker Alex Brosque said it for all his team-mates when he declared: "Sitting in the dressing room after the 2-2 draw with Melbourne (in the major semi) it suddenly dawned on us that our season could be over if we don't beat Wellington."
The Sky Blues will go in as favourites after beating the Kiwis in all three encounters this season, scoring six goals to Wellington's one.
Sydney also has the home ground advantage and may also get Qantas Socceroo Shannon Cole back from injury.
The Killer Bs - Brosque and Mark Bridge - were reunited last week and looked sharp, with Bridge covering the vacancy left by Steve Corica.
The pair will again play an important role, especially if one of them can nick an early goal and dent Wellington's confidence.
Simon Colosimo continues to do a great job in the middle of defence while keeper Clint Bolton has been showing what Sydney will be missing out on next year with a string of excellent saves.
The romantics out there would love nothing more than seeing the big shots knocked over by the nothing-to-lose Phoenix.
Five straight wins - including a brilliant 3-1 extra time victory over Newcastle in the knock-out semi-final last weekend - have Ricky Herbert's believing than can achieve anything.
Put Brazil in against the Phoenix at the moment and they wouldn't be overawed.
Striker Paul Ifill has been sensational in recent weeks, Manny Muscat has been a rock in the midfield while goalkeeper Liam Reddy has been harder to beat than a Steinlager-induced hangover.
If they can score early then the crowd will grow anxious and will begin to heap the pressure on the hosts.
An upset is not beyond the realms of possibility here.
Sydney FC squad: 1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 2. Sebastian RYALL 3. Stephan KELLER, 4.Simon COLOSIMO, 5. Hayden FOXE, 6. Karol KISEL, 7. Brendan GAN, 8. Stuart MUSIALIK, 9. John ALOISI (c), 12. Shannon COLE, 13. Antony GOLEC,14. Alex BROSQUE, 15. Terry MCFLYNN, 16. Chris PAYNE,19. Mark BRIDGE, 20. Ivan NECEVSKI, 22. Sung-Hwan BYUN *one to be omitted*
In: Shannon COLE (returns from injury), Antony GOLEC (promoted)
Unavailable: Kofi DANNING (knee - season), Matthew JURMAN (foot - season), Steve Corica (hamstring - season), Rhyan GRANT (ankle - season), Adam CASEY (hamstring - indefinite)
Wellington Phoenix squad: 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 5. DIEGO, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 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: Jon McKAIN (returns from suspension), Michael FERRANTE (promoted)
Unavailable: Mark PASTON (gk) (leg - season)