Preview: Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Victory
The Phoenix will have to put on a better show this week if they're to break their duck against the Victory in an intriguing encounter that features former Melbourne matchwinner Fred lining up against his old side for the first time.
Preview: Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Victory
Date: Friday November 28 Kick-off: 7.30pm local (5.30 pm AET) Venue: Westpac Stadium TV: Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1 and Sky Sport 2. Hyundai A-League club radio broadcast partner is Radio Network (Wellington) 1035AM and SEN (Melbourne) 1116AM. To purchase tickets visit www.premier.ticketek.co.nz
Head-to-head Four A-League meetings: Wellington Phoenix - 0 wins, Melbourne Victory - 2 wins, Draws - 2.
Previous meeting Wellington Phoenix 2, Melbourne Victory 4, Westpac Stadium, Round 2, August 2008
Past Five Games Wellington: Round 8: Central Coast Mariners 0, Wellington Phoenix 1, Bluetongue Stadium Round 9: Wellington Phoenix 0, Queensland Roar 1, Westpac Stadium Round 10: Perth Glory 2, Wellington Phoenix 0, Members Equity Stadium Round 11: Sydney FC 1, Wellington Phoenix 2, Sydney Football Stadium Round 12: Wellington Phoenix 2, Newcastle Jets 0, Westpac Stadium
Melbourne Victory: Round 8: Newcastle Jets 1, Melbourne Victory 0, EnergyAustralia Stadium Round 9: Melbourne Victory 0, Sydney FC 2, Telstra Dome Round 10: Adelaide United 2, Melbourne Victory 3, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 11: Queensland Roar 0, Melbourne Victory 1, Suncorp Stadium Round 12: Melbourne 2, Central Coast Mariners 1, Telstra Dome
Analysis The Phoenix will have to put on a better show this week if they're to break their duck against the Victory in an intriguing encounter that features former Melbourne matchwinner Fred lining up against his old side for the first time.
Having set up four of Archie Thompson's five goals in Melbourne's 2006/07 grand final thrashing of Adelaide, along with winning the Hyundai A-League's Player of the Season award for that season, Fred headed to the MLS, where he's still contracted for D.C. United.
But, the Phoenix pulled off one of the recruiting coups of the season when they signed him on for a six-match guest stint and, after being a trifle underwhelming against Newcastle last week, the Brazilian will be keen to fire against his old team-mates.
Victory defender Rody Vargas has already identified Fred as the major threat to the Melbourne side, although he admits it will be good to see his mate again. But Vargas may be forgetting another bloke wearing the yellow and black who's having a decent season in competition joint top scorer Shane Smeltz, who has eight goals to his name this year, including one last week in Wellington's 2-0 win over Newcastle.
That victory may have appeared a fairly standard win over a struggling opponent, but in reality the Phoenix appeared lacklustre against the Jets, who dominated play until being reduced to nine men when Mark Milligan joined Joel Griffiths for an early shower. It was only after that pair were off the field that the Phoenix took control of the encounter and they simply cannot afford to do that against the competition leaders this weekend.
The Phoenix will be without the suspended Karl Dodd, but Jeremy Christie makes his return to an almost injury-free line-up, while Victory coach Ernie Merrick has welcomed back Jose Luis Lopez from international duty, adding him to the squad at the expense of Leigh Broxham.
Having Costa Rican national team-mates Carlos Hernandez and Lopez together in the Victory midfield once more will only strengthen the Victory's already impressive passing game, which may be a little too slick for the Phoenix to counter effectively.
A win to Melbourne allows it to maintain a three-point gap over second-placed Adelaide at the top of the table through its fourth win on the trot. The Phoenix will also be looking to set a club record of three wins in a row, with the points helping them to possibly move into the top four. But against a virtually full strength Melbourne side, this appears unlikely.
Wellington Phoenix Squad. 1.Mark PASTON (gk), 2.Jeremy CHRISTIE, 3.Tony LOCHHEAD, 4.Jon McKAIN, 6.Tim BROWN, 7.Leo BERTOS, 9.Shane SMELTZ, 10.Michael FERRANTE, 11.DANIEL, 13.Troy HEARFIELD, 18.Ben SIGMUND, 20.Glen MOSS (gk), 22.Andrew DURANTE (c), 25.Manny MUSCAT, 27.FRED
In. Jeremy CHRISTIE (promoted) Out. Karl DODD (suspended - 1 week) Unavailable. Vince LIA (knee - season)
Melbourne Victory: 1.Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (c), 3.Michael THWAITE, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8.Grant BREBNER, 9.Danny ALLSOPP, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 14.Billy CELESKI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Jose LUIS LOPEZ, 20.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 22.Nick WARD
In. Jose Luis LOPEZ (return from international duty) Out. Leigh BROXHAM (omitted) Unavailable. Evan BERGER (hamstring - 1 week), Nathan ELASI (groin - 1 week)