Preview: Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Victory

There’s nothing like a top of the table clash to get the pulses racing. Two of the best performed sides this Hyundai A-League season meet at Westpac Stadium on Sunday in what could be a campaign-defining battle.   MATCH DETAILS   Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Victory   Westpac Stadium, Wellington   Sunday, 5 April 2015   Kick-Off: 7:00 PM (Local) (5:00 PM AEDT)   SQUADS   Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Glen MOSS (GK), 2.Manny MUSCAT, 3.Joel GRIFFITHS, 4.Roly BONEVACIA, 5.Michael BOXALL, 8.Alex RODRIGUEZ, 9.Nathan BURNS, 10.Michael MCGLINCHEY, 11.Kwabena APPIAH, 15.Jason HICKS, 16.Louis FENTON, 18.Ben SIGMUND, 19.Tom DOYLE, 20.Lewis ITALIANO (GK), 21.Roy KRISHNA, 22.Andrew DURANTE (c)   Ins: 5.Michael BOXALL (returns from international duty), 9.Nathan BURNS (returns from international duty), 10.Michael McGLINCHEY (returns from international duty), 16.Louis FENTON (returns from international duty), 19.Tom DOYLE (returns from international duty)   Outs: 13.Albert RIERA (suspended – 1 match), 14.Alex RUFER (international duty), 17.Vince LIA (hamstring – 1 week), 23.Matthew RIDENTON (international duty) 31.Andrew BLAKE (international duty)   Unavailable: 7.Kenny CUNNINGHAM (hamstring – 1 week)   Melbourne Victory squad: 1.Nathan COE (GK), 2.Jason GERIA, 4.Nick ANSELL, 5.Mark MILLIGAN (c), 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 7.Gui FINKLER, 8.Besart BERISHA, 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 13.Andrew NABBOUT, 14.Fahid BEN KHALFALLAH, 15.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 17.Matthieu DELPIERRE, 18.Dylan MURNANE, 20.Lawrence THOMAS (GK), 21.Carl VALERI, 22.Jesse MAKAROUNAS   ***two to be omitted***   Ins: 2.Jason GERIA (returns from international duty), 5.Mark MILLIGAN (returns from international duty), 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES (returns from international duty), 15.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI (returns from international duty)   Outs: 34.Thomas DENG (omitted), 35.George HOWARD (omitted)   Unavailable: 26.Jordan BROWN (injured)   Hashtag#WELvMVC   TV Broadcast: Live and exclusive coverage on FOX SPORTS 505 from 5.00pm (AEST) and Sky Sport 3 (New Zealand)   Radio Broadcast: Online/ABC Radio Mobile phone app, Radio Sport (New Zealand) nationwide and via I-Heart radio online and app.   Referee: Kris Griffiths-Jones   BLUFFER'S GUIDE   Wellington’s superb form in March took them to the summit of the A-League, where they remained last weekend, despite a 3-0 loss to Sydney FC on home soil. Just two points now separate the top five teams as the jockeying for playoff positions intensifies down the home stretch of the regular season.   Victory come to Wellington in excellent goal-scoring form, having netted 21 times in their last nine matches. They’re the favourites for the Premiers Plate (with a game in hand and a slightly less taxing run-in than their rivals) but they know a loss here will leave them four points behind the Phoenix with only four matches remaining.   OPTA DATA STATS   The Phoenix have won just four of their 23 matches against Victory, but broke a long-standing duck last month by winning in Melbourne for the first time. Before that though, Victory had won nine of the previous ten matches, with the one exception being the 5-0 rout by Wellington at Westpac Stadium in January 2014.   Wellington have the equal-most home wins in the A-League this season (seven) but Victory have lost just once on the road in 2014/15. However, in their ten matches in Wellington, Victory have never kept a clean sheet.   ROUTE TO GOAL   The Phoenix will welcome back top-scorer Nathan Burns and attacking midfielder Michael McGlinchey with open arms from international duty.  Without that pair, they lacked a cutting edge against Sydney FC last weekend in their 0-3 loss.   Victory’s plethora of attacking threats is well-known (and feared) across the A-League; no side has kept them scoreless since Christmas – a run of 11 games. Besart Berisha needs one more goal to beat his A-League tally of 11 from last season at Brisbane.    WHO'S BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS WEEK?   Nathan Burns played in both of the Socceroos’ matches against Germany and Macedonia and was also a nominee for the A-League’s Player of the Month for March.
FORM LINES (PAST FIVE GAMES)   Wellington Phoenix: LWWWW The loss to Sydney last weekend snapped Phoenix’s four-game winning streak and brought them back into the tightly-congested pack at the summit of the A-League. Their form in March though was undisputable.   Melbourne Victory: WDWDL Since their flying start to the season, Victory haven’t won consecutive matches since early December. Having said that, the goals and points have kept coming, meaning Muscat’s men have spent just one week outside the A-League’s top three all season.   Did you know? This will be Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante’s 50th consecutive game without missing a single minute.  At fulltime, he’ll have played 4500 straight A-League minutes for the Phoenix, which equates to 75 hours of football.   Prediction   Wellington Phoenix 2 Melbourne Victory 2   There have been five goals in four of the last five meetings between these two, so a low-scoring match seems unlikely, especially given the 88 goals they’ve racked up between them this season. The first ever game between these two in August 2007 ended 2-2 at Westpac Stadium and a similar scoreline is entirely possible here.