Preview: Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Victory
The two finalists from the Pre-Season Cup renew acquaintances at the same venue.
Date: Sunday August 24 Kick-off (local time): 3:00pm AEST (5pm local) Venue: Westpac Stadium TV and Radio: Live & exclusive broadcast on Fox Sports 3 and Sky Sports 1. Hyundai A-League club radio broadcast partner is Radio Network (Wellington) 1035AM.
Head-to-head Three Hyundai A-League meetings: Melbourne - 1 win, Wellington - 0 wins, Draws 2
Previous Hyundai A-League meeting Melbourne Victory 3, Wellington Phoenix 0, Telstra Dome, Round 20, January 2008
Results so far Wellington Phoenix Round 1: Wellington Phoenix 1, Queensland Roar 1, Westpac Stadium
Melbourne: Round 1: Sydney FC 0, Melbourne Victory 0, Sydney Football Stadium
Analysis The two finalists from the Pre-Season Cup renew acquaintances at the same venue just 19 days after Melbourne won a dramatic penalty shootout to decide the first trophy of the season. Apart from the tense finish, it wasn't a game for the highlight reel and both teams are confident they have improved significantly since that match.
Wellington opened its season with a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Queensland, a result which showed how much resolve Ricki Herbert's men have. It was that man Shane Smeltz who again proved his worth when it matters, scoring the equaliser. The 26-year-old may not be the most spectacular of players, but he knows how to get the ball into the back of the net.
The dynamic Leilei Gao comes back in for this match while Ben Sigmond has been included into a 17-man squad. Herbert has his first choice team available with the exception of former Victory player Vince Lia who will miss the entire season with a knee injury.
Victory gets back Grant Brebner for this match, while Leigh Broxham and Billy Celeski, who came on as subs last week, should be right for the full 90 should they be required. Michael Theoklitos, who made the winning penalty save in the Pre-Season Cup final, misses out with an ankle injury, with Mitch Langerak to take his spot. Nathan Elasi and Sebastian Ryall are both away on international duty. Archie Thompson, Daniel Vasilevski and Nick Ward are all at least a week away.
Melbourne's opening 0-0 draw with Sydney was full of promise but short on finish and the club was left to rue its missed chances. Coach Ernie Merrick has promised to pursue his more enterprising game style. Victory has not conceded a goal in its past four matches, with Michael Thwaite fitting in alongside Rody Vargas and Kevin Muscat with consummate ease.
Jose Luis Lopez's first A-League game was full of promise and the club has been delighted with how he has fit in the team. All they need is for new striker Ney Fabiano to find his striking boots and they will be a very dangerous proposition. Melbourne has never lost to the Phoenix, having drawn two games and won against them last time they played.
Wellington Phoenix Squad: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Jeremy CHRISTIE, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. Karl DODD, 7. Leo BERTOS, 9. Shane SMELTZ, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 12. Richard JOHNSON, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 15. Adam KWASNIK, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Glen MOSS (gk), 21. Leilei GAO, 22. Andrew DURANTE (captain), 25. Manny MUSCAT. * two to be omitted
In. Leilei GAO (return from injury), Ben SIGMUND (promoted). Out. Nil. Unavailable. Vince Lia (knee - season).
Melbourne Victory Squad 2.Kevin MUSCAT (Captain), 3.Michael THWAITE, 4.Steven PACE, 6.Steve PANTELIDIS, 7.Matthew KEMP, 8. Grant BREBNER, 9.Danny ALLSOPP, 11.NEY FABIANO, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 14.Billy CELESKI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 17.Jose Luis LOPEZ, 18.Leigh BROXHAM, 19.Evan BERGER, 20.Mitchell LANGERAK (gk), 30.Tommi TOMICH (gk) *Two to be omitted
In. Grant BREBNER, Tommi TOMICH (on loan). Out. Nathan ELASI (National U/20 duties), Sebastian RYALL (National U/20 duties), Michael THEOKLITOS (injured ankle - 1week). Unavailable. Archie THOMPSON (ankle - 1 week), Daniel VASILEVSKI (hip - 3 weeks), Nick WARD (calf - 1 week).