Preview: Wellington Phoenix v Gold Coast United

The odds here are obviously stacked against Gold Coast, after the week they've had.

Date: Sunday 4 March, 2012 Kick-off: 2.30pm AEDT, 4.30pm local Venue: Westpac Stadium

Head-to-head Played: 8 Wins: Wellington 3, Gold Coast 2, Draws: 3

Previous encounter Wellington 1, Gold Coast 0, 15 January 2012

History: Generally speaking, this is one of the tightest fixtures in A-League history. After Gold Coast's first two seasons, the head-to-head record with the 'Nix was evenly split two draws, two wins and two losses. Only this campaign has Wellington started to flex their muscle over United. To start the season, they looked on course for a cruisy 1-0 win away at Skilled Park - until James Brown popped up at the death with a late equalizer. Last time they met, it was at the same venue, only it was Tim Brown's turn to net in the shadows of first time. Now with their first (and last) home match against the boys from the Glitter Strip this season, Wellington will be looking to confirm their dominance and keep their undefeated record in tact.

Form: Past five matches: Wellington: WWLLW Gold Coast: LLLDD

Summary of form: After slipping to consecutive losses to the top two clubs in the A-League, Central Coast and Brisbane, the 'Nix returned to their winning ways with a 1-0 away triumph in Sydney. On an afternoon that showed just how fine the margins can be in football, the Sky Blues had endless chances on goal but couldn't make them count. Paul Ifill, however, had one clear goalscoring opportunity - and he capitalized. That's the difference between a team that deserves to play finals football, Wellington, and a team yet to prove themselves, like Sydney. However, fourth spot is far from sewn up for the Kiwi club, so they'd best keep at it.

Meanwhile, Gold Coast are still searching for their first win since Boxing Day. No wonder why everything's gone pear-shaped this season - there's clearly plenty going on at the club. Clive Palmer's license has been revoked, the contractual status of their squad was unclear until only hours before they left the Coast on Saturday morning and the future of the club itself looks bleak. However, in their past two matches, United were able to deflect the off-field circus that was Mitch Cooper's one-match captaincy and secure fighting draws with the Mariners and Melbourne Victory.

Match Committee: Wellington have nearly a full squad to pick from - only Daniel (ankle) and Lucas Pantelis (knee) are injured, but unfortunately neither are likely to feature again this season. On the other hand, Gold Coast's fitness problems continue. Glen Moss (adductor), Joel Porter (calf), Tahj Minniecon (foot), Dylan Macallister (hamstring), Chris Broadfoot (ankle), Ante Rozic (hamstring), James Brown (ankle) are all sidelined, as is Kristian Rees and key forward Ben Halloran (hip). However, most are expected to return within the next week or so. Coming into United's squad are Peter Jungschlager and Dylan McGowan, who return from injury and international duty respectively.

Danger men:

Alex Smith - After his tumultuous sacking from Gold Coast on the eve of the season, utility Smith must be delighted with how his career has panned out. Not only did he dodge all the off-field ugliness at United, he's now a key component of a side who will play a major role in the finals. He's long past needing to prove a point to his old employers - his job is to now make sure Wellington close the season in style.

Michael Thwaite - After returning from the Socceroos' match against Saudi Arabia earlier in the week, Thwaite returned to the Gold Coast to find his club in disarray. Now that they're under the control of FFA, his leadership is needed more than ever. What does the future hold for GCU? Nobody really knows, but there's still four games to go yet. If the club can salvage some dignity and snare a couple of wins, Thwaite will have a massive say.

At the end of the day… The odds here are obviously stacked against Gold Coast, after the week they've had. The club's license was revoked, which means their future is unclear. Their former owner is now behind a bizarre splinter group that is meant to hold FFA to account. He even offered his players contracts to join a rebel league, if you believe the rumours. Only late on Friday night did the United players come to an agreement to side with the FFA and finish the season under the governing body's control. Even then, it appeared it would be Tom Sermanni coaching the side, not Mike Mulvey. Their preparation has been hampered, the distractions have been endless, and Wellington in Wellington is always a formidable task. Do they have any chance? Of course they do. It would be folly to write United off here, despite recent goings-on. Gold Coast have a tight-knit playing group who are loyal to their coach. They'll be playing for him and each other. Their club has copped a battering over the past few months and even if there's no certainty beyond the next four games, they'll be looking to get back some respect. We still expect the Phoenix, who have their eyes on stitching up a top-six spot, to roll them over, but it certainly won't be as easy as most expect.