Preview: Wellington Phoenix v Brisbane Roar

Results show this is a lop-sided fixture overall, but there were plenty of eyebrows raised last time Brisbane and Wellington met.

Date: Wednesday, 14 December 2011 Kick-off: 7.30pm NZT, 5.30pm AEDT Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

Head-to-head Played 13: Wins: Wellington 1, Brisbane 8, Draws: 4

Previous encounter Brisbane 1, Wellington 1, 13 November 2011

History: Results show this is a lop-sided fixture overall, but there were plenty of eyebrows raised last time Brisbane and Wellington met. Few expected the Phoenix to mount a challenge against a Roar side with its eyes firmly squared on Australian sporting history.

But they did more than just mount a challenge - they frustrated Brisbane for a full 90 minutes to claim a 1-1 draw at Suncorp Stadium in a fantastic, disciplined performance that few outside the club saw coming.


Past five matches: Wellington: DDWLW Brisbane: DWWLL

Summary of form: Don't let the talk fool you - the Phoenix aren't doing too badly at all right now, thank you very much. Despite a pre-season ownership crisis and a squad that looks awfully thin on paper, Wellington are only one point out of the top six and in their last five starts, they have eight points out of a possible 15.

Full credit to Ricki Herbert, because that's more than the team once known as 'Roarcelona', who have copped successive losses for the first time since February 2010 - back then, Pieter Collen and Sergio van Dijk were still knocking around in orange, so it was a lifetime ago in Hyundai A-League terms.

Match Committee: There's a number of injury problems for Brisbane and worse, they concern some of the club's best players. Captain Matt Smith, playmaker Thomas Broich, the slippery fish Henrique and super-sub James Meyer will not take any part in Dunedin, putting the greater depth of Ange Postecoglou's squad under the microscope on Wednesday. Across the ditch, Wellington's Mirjan Pavlovic is suspended, while Tony Lochhead has twinged his groin and is unlikely to feature.

Danger men:

Ben Sigmund - When Ricki Herbert prepares to name his starting XI each week, surely Ben Sigmund is one of the first names he puts down. The reigning Phoenix Player of the Year is often and unfairly overlooked when it comes to assessing the cream of the Hyundai A-League crop, but that's purely because he's just so consistent in the heart of defence. Sigmund rarely has a bad game and with a wounded, frustrated Brisbane strolling into town, now isn't a good time to start.

Mitch Nichols - With maestro Thomas Broich out, the playmaking responsibilities will fall to Nichols, the kid from Palm Beach. It's easy forget he's only just 22, but that's only because he's formed a vitally important part of the Roar's midfield and put in some mature shifts over the past few seasons.

He now has the opportunity to further cement his reputation as one of the game's brightest young prospects and slip into the German's shoes this Wednesday. Easier said than done, but he certainly has the ability.

At the end of the day…

All of a sudden, this match has gone from a foregone conclusion to a potential turning point for both sides. Two weeks ago, Brisbane were indestructible. Now, as they ready for their third match in 10 days, they could be ripe for the picking by the unfancied Phoenix.

Again, they'll be without the influential Broich, and unfortunately for Roar fans he has plenty of company on the sidelines - Smith, Henrique and Meyer won't play either. With so many key names out, an unenviable schedule and some heavy legs expected as a result of the trip to Dunedin, make no mistake - this is a danger game for the Roar.

If they lose, that's three in a row - and with matches against second-placed Central Coast and bitter rivals Gold Coast around the corner, they could very easily slip into a downward spiral, if they haven't already. On top of that there's ample motivation for Wellington, who know a win could take them as high as third place, albeit temporarily.

Brisbane are still a fantastic side, don't forget, but they're not superhuman. They'll be stoked if they can snatch a draw, given how much is going against them this week. But unlike in weeks gone by, we're not expecting them to.