Preview: Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Victory
Wellington is looking to equal Sydney FC's record for unbeaten consecutive home matches when it hosts Melbourne on Friday night, but the table-topping Victory certainly won't be offering the Phoenix any favours whatsoever.
Date: Friday December 4 Kick-off: 7:30pm NZST, 5:30pm AEDT Venue: Westpac Stadium TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 2 and Sky Sports 1. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is The Radio Network 1035 AM (Wellington). To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.co.nz.
Head-to-head Played 7: Wins: Melbourne 3, Wellington 1. Draws: 3
Previous meeting Melbourne Victory 1, Wellington Phoenix 1, Etihad Stadium, Round 6, September 2009
Past five matches: Wellington Phoenix: Round 13: Sydney FC 3, Wellington Phoenix 1, Sydney Football Stadium Round 10: Wellington Phoenix 3, Newcastle Jets 0, Westpac Stadium Round 14: Wellington Phoenix 1, Perth Glory 1, Westpac Stadium Round 15: Newcastle Jets 0, Wellington Phoenix 1, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 16: Brisbane Roar 4, Wellington Phoenix 1, Suncorp Stadium
Melbourne Victory: Round 12: Melbourne Victory 3, Adelaide United 1, Etihad Stadium Round 13: Perth Glory 1, Melbourne Victory 2, ME Bank Stadium Round 14: Melbourne Victory 0, Central Coast Mariners 4, Etihad Stadium Round 15: Brisbane Roar 0, Melbourne Victory 1, Suncorp Stadium Round 16: Melbourne Victory 4, Gold Coast United 0, Etihad Stadium
Analysis: Wellington is looking to equal Sydney FC's record for unbeaten consecutive home matches when it hosts Melbourne on Friday night, but the table-topping Victory certainly won't be offering the Phoenix any favours whatsoever.
Indeed, the Phoenix couldn't have got a worse opponent than Ernie Merrick's men as they look to build on their 13-match unbeaten run at Westpac Stadium. The last time 14 matches in a row were achieved was when Sydney reigned supreme between October 2005 and October 2006. Ironically it was the all-conquering Victory of 2006-07 that stopped Sydney's run in a 2-1 result at Aussie Stadium and the Victorians are sure to be aiming to do the same against Wellington. The Phoenix, of course, are no pushovers at home, having blitzed high-profile sides like Gold Coast United. But Melbourne is also the best travelling team in the competition, having won six of its seven games on the road, its only travelling loss being to Perth in Round 4.
Melbourne also goes into this clash fresh from thrashing the Gold Coast 4-0 on the back of two goals from Archie Thompson. But the Victory are taking an injury-depleted squad into this game after last week's win. Both Evan Berger (hamstring) and Grant Brebner (ankle) are out for possibly six weeks, while defender Matthew Kemp has been named despite suffering a groin injury against United. Youngster Matthew Foschini is travelling with the squad as cover in case he is not quite fit enough. Aside from Foschini, Merrick has included the handy Surat Sukha, who will take Berger's place in defence, and Tom Pondeljak for this game, while Ney Fabiano won't be seen in Victory colours again after leaving the club this week to play in Thailand.
The Phoenix, meanwhile, head into this game looking to make amends for a 4-1 loss to Brisbane last Sunday afternoon. In a thrilling affair, both sides traded blows for almost an hour before defender Manny Muscat was dismissed for a challenge on Roar youngster Tommy Oar. Already 2-1 down when Muscat went for an early shower, the Phoenix struggled to respond as Brisbane added another two goals.
With Muscat suspended for three matches, fringe midfielder Troy Hearfield looks like being used as his replacement in the back four, although whether his defensive inexperience is exposed by Melbourne remains to be seen. Coach Ricki Herbert has also brought in regular goalkeeper Mark Paston, Diego and Jon McKain for this match as he looks to get his side back to winning ways after last week's result.
Although the first match between these sides back in Round 6 finished with a 1-1 result, it was more of an attacking affair than the scores indicated as both sides created numerous chances without finding a clinical finish. If this clash follows a similar pattern there could be some real fireworks as Paul Ifill and Chris Greenacre both seem to have found their scoring boots after struggling early on. But whether Wellington's weakened defence can hold out against Archie Thompson, Carlos Hernandez, Nick Ward and Melbourne's latest goal-scorer, Robbie Kruse, remains to be seen.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Mark PASTON, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. DIEGO, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE, 11. DANIEL, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 14. Adrian CACERES, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 23. Costa BARBAROUSES
*one to be omitted*
In: Mark PASTON (return from injury), Jon McKAIN (return from injury), DIEGO (return from injury)
Out: Manny MUSCAT (suspended - 3 weeks), Jonathan GOULD (gk) (short-term contract expired)
Melbourne Victory squad: 1. Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 2. Kevin MUSCAT (c), 5. Surat SUKHA, 6. Leigh BROXHAM, 7. Matthew KEMP, 10. Archie THOMPSON, 12. Rodrigo VARGAS, 15. Tom PONDELJAK, 16. Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17. Matthew FOSCHINI, 20. Glen MOSS (gk), 21. Robbie KRUSE, 22. Nick WARD, 23. Adrian LEIJER, 27. Sutee SUKSOMKIT
In: Matthew FOSCHINI (promoted), Tom PONDELJAK (return from injury), Surat SUKHA (return from injury)
Out: Evan BERGER (hamstring, 4-6 weeks), Grant BREBNER (ankle, 6 weeks), Mate DUGANDZIC (omitted)
Unavailable: Marvin ANGULO (pending registration), Billy CELESKI (knee, season), Steven PACE (abdomen, indefinite)