Preview: Wellington Phoenix v Brisbane Roar

Sunday's clash at Westpac Stadium, will be decided in middle of the pitch and Brisbane have the best midfield cohort in the competition.

Date: Sunday 21 October, 2012 Kick-off: 4.30pm local, 2.30pm AEDT Venue: Westpac Stadium

Head-to-head Played: 17 Wins: Wellington 2, Brisbane 10, Draws: 5

Previous encounter Wellington 0, Brisbane 2, 12 February 2012

Form: Past five matches: Wellington: DWLWL Perth: LWLWW

The Game Wellington Phoenix are set for wholesale changes as their international players return from World Cup qualifying action. Defenders Leo Bertos, Tony Lochhead and Ben Sigmund, plus striker Jeremy Brockie, are expected to start but goalkeeper Mark Paston could miss out.

Paston did not play in New Zealand's two World Cup qualifiers against Tahiti due to a foot injury, although Phoenix head coach Rickie Herbert has not ruled out the 35-year-old gloveman. Solomon Islander Benjamin Totori could be left on the bench, however, having played two games in five days for his country, plus Paul Ifill was one of Wellington's best in their 1-1 draw with Melbourne Heart.

For Brisbane, head coach Rado Vidosic will be keen to keep his starting line-up unchanged after the Roar destroyed Melbourne Victory 5-0 in Round 2. After a defeat in Perth to open the season, Brisbane looked back to their best against Victory with Besart Berisha scoring twice in the rout.

The big issue Wellington Phoenix - Wellington have picked up only three clean sheets in their past 13 Hyundai A-League matches and have conceded 1.9 goals per game against Brisbane in their past 10 fixtures. The Roar are one of the Phoenix's bogey sides - do Herbert's team have the defensive capabilities to keep Brisbane quiet?

Brisbane Roar - In the opening round, Vidosic seemed keen to put his own stamp on Brisbane's line-up, playing Thomas Broich through the middle, dropping regular starter Massimo Murdocca to the bench and selecting Nick Fitzgerald on the left wing.

But after a loss to the Glory, Vidosic brought Murdocca back to partner Erik Paartalu in the centre of midfield against Victory and considering that result, will he do so again? Broich was forced out wide but has had plenty of joy there since coming to Australia and after such a dominant win, it will be interesting to see whether Vidosic sticks to the starting XI that had plenty of success under Postecoglou.

Gamebreaker Berisha was lethal against Victory on Saturday night, scoring two classic poacher's goals from inside the penalty area. The Albanian striker scored two goals in three games against Phoenix last year but missed out in Wellington as Brisbane lost 2-0.

Berisha hit the back of the net 23 times across all competitions in his debut season in the Hyundai A-League and, if anything, Vidosic's more direct tactics may suit the 27-year-old marksman even more this time around.

Prediction: Wellington Phoenix 1-2 Brisbane Roar. Early signs are Herbert has built a very solid 4-4-2 formation that defends well together and attacks in waves but Wellington's central midfield pairing of Alex Smith and Manny Muscat will face a much tougher test than in the opening two rounds when they come up against Broich, Murdocca, Paartalu and co.

Wellington have increased their forward options this season with Paul Ifill, Louis Fenton and Stein Huysegems all in goal-scoring form. If Brisbane have an off day, the Phoenix have the ability to punish them.

Like most games, however, Sunday's clash at Westpac Stadium, will be decided in middle of the pitch and Brisbane have the best midfield cohort in the competition. New signing Ben Halloran has been a great recruit for the Roar and the Phoenix defence will have to be on their toes to keep both him and Berisha quiet.