Preview: Wellington Phoenix v Perth Glory
The Phoenix are back on home turf and looking to recover from last Friday's calamitous loss to Adelaide but just how deep the psychological scars go after that 6-1 defeat remains to be seen.
Date: Saturday December 13 Kick-off: 7.00pm local (5.00 pm AET) Venue: Westpac Stadium TV: Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1 and Sky Sport 3. Hyundai A-League club radio broadcast partner is Radio Network (Wellington) 1035AM and 6PR (Perth) 882AM. To purchase tickets visit www.premier.ticketek.co.nz
Head-to-head Five Hyundai A-League meetings: Wellington Phoenix - 3 wins, Perth Glory - 2 wins, Draws - 0.
Previous meeting Perth Glory 2, Wellington Phoenix 0, Members Equity Stadium, Round 10, November 2008
Past Five Games Wellington: 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 Round 13: Wellington Phoenix 2, Melbourne Victory 1, Westpac Stadium Round 14: Adelaide United 6, Wellington Phoenix 1, Hindmarsh Stadium
Perth Glory: Round 10: Perth Glory 2, Wellington Phoenix 0, Members Equity Stadium Round 11: Perth Glory 2, Newcastle Jets 2, Members Equity Stadium Round 12: Queensland Roar 4, Perth Glory 1, Suncorp Stadium Round 13: Perth Glory 2, Central Coast Mariners 2, Members Equity Stadium Round 14: Perth Glory 3, Melbourne Victory 1, Members Equity Stadium
Analysis The Phoenix are back on home turf and looking to recover from last Friday's calamitous loss to Adelaide but just how deep the psychological scars go after that 6-1 defeat remains to be seen.
It's certainly been a bad week for Wellington, one of the surprise packets of the Hyundai A-League season. On top of losing so badly to the Reds, star midfielder Fred has also been forced to return home to Brazil following the tragic death of his father.
Wellington's been down and out at other times this season, though, but like its namesake it's always risen to the occasion, grabbing a crucial victory here or a vital goal there and often stunning more fancied opposition. But 6-1 is the second-worst loss in Hyundai A-League history, just behind Melbourne's 6-0 thrashing of Adelaide in the 2006-07 Grand Final, meaning coach Ricki Herbert will have to pull more than a few rabbits out of the hat to lift his side for Saturday's clash with a Glory side that appears to have got its groove on.
Aside from Fred, the good news for Herbert is that Wellington has a virtually injury-free squad. Goalkeeper Mark Paston is out for four matches with bruised ribs and is a big loss from last week's side, but he's more than adequately replaced by the club's usual No.1 stopper Glenn Moss, who's been kept out of the side through Paston's good form. The Phoenix have also looked abroad for a short-term backup for Moss, signing former Falkirk 'keeper Scott Higgins, who will be seen next season playing for the Gold Coast.
Despite last week's loss, Herbert will certainly remind his players they're still well in contention for making the play-offs. The club sits in sixth, just two points adrift of fourth-placed Queensland, and a victory in this encounter will see them pushing towards the top four once again, particularly if Queensland or Central Coast lose their matches at the weekend.
The Phoenix will also want to win to put some space between themselves and the seventh-placed Glory, who have 15 points and are just five adrift of fourth position in a crowded race for the finals over the last seven matches. In what's probably the longest road trip in domestic football, Perth travel to Westpac Stadium, a venue where it's never won, full of confidence following a good month of results and a shock 3-1 win over the Victory last weekend.
Perth's got some form against Wellington this season as well, having beaten the Phoenix on two occasions already at Members Equity Stadium, keeping two clean sheets along the way. But the Glory haven't earned a single point on their travels this campaign and this will give Wellington some hope of winning, although it will have to lift its game from the previous times its played the Western Australians, for the Phoenix looked dire on both occasions, with top scorer Shane Smeltz isolated and ineffective.
In both those matches, the Phoenix didn't look capable of breaking down a Glory defence, which has conceded an average of more than two goals per game this season. This is where Fred's absence will be most keenly felt, as the Brazilian has the ability to pick apart the Glory's back four and provide the killer pass that Smeltz or Leo Bertos can feed off. His absence and the fact they have two wins against the Phoenix already this season, will be major psychological boosts for the Glory, albeit necessary ones as Perth is facing some serious injury worries.
Star striker Nikita Rukavytsya, second behind Smeltz on the goal scoring table with eight goals, returns from a calf injury after missing the Melbourne match but whether he's fully fit remains to be seen. Argentine midfielder Adrian Trinidad, whose incisive runs and ability to take on players has been instrumental in several Glory goals, is only 50-50 with an ankle injury and hasn't trained this week, while Perth skipper Jamie Coyne will miss the next three matches with a torn calf, leaving a gaping hole in midfield as Amaral (hamstring) is out for the season.
Glory coach Dave Mitchell has a few options to replace Coyne, with Scott Bulloch, Marc Anthony and Perth's National Youth League captain Andrija Jukic in line to start. Despite queries over his fitness, Jukic is one of the most creative players in the NYL and could be a real handful for Wellington if given his debut by Mitchell. If fit, Rukavytsya, Trinidad and last week's two-goal hero Eugene Dadi could prove too much for a Wellington defence that's probably still a little shell-shocked, but don't count against the Glory back four conceding another late goal either.
Wellington Phoenix Squad. 2. Jeremy CHRISTIE, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. Karl DODD, 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 (captain), 25. Manny MUSCAT, 30. Scott HIGGINS (gk). *one to be omitted.
In. 5. Karl DODD (promoted), 30. Scott HIGGINS (gk, short-term injury replacement).
Out. 1. Mark PASTON (ribs - four weeks), 27. FRED (personal).
Unavailable. 17. Vince LIA (knee - season).
Perth Glory Squad. 30.Tando VELAPHI (gk), 1.Jason PETKOVIC (gk), 2.Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 3.David TARKA, 5.Jamie HARNWELL, 6.Dino DJULBIC, 7.Nick RIZZO, 9.Adrian TRINIDAD, 11.Scott BULLOCH, 13.Nikita RUKAVYTSYA, 14.Eugene DADI, 16.Adriano PELLEGRINO, 17.James DOWNEY, 19.Naum SEKULOVSKI, 21.Mark LEE, 22.Wayne SRHOJ, 25.Marc ANTHONY, 28.Andrija JUKIC * three to be omitted
In: 3.David TARKA (promoted), 13.Nikita RUKAVYTSYA (return from injury), 21.Mark LEE (promoted), 28.Andrija JUKIC (promoted from Youth Team)
Out: 4.Jamie COYNE (calf - 3 weeks)
Unavailable: Josip MAGDIC (ankle - season), AMARAL (hamstring - season), James ROBINSON (abdomen - 3 weeks), Hayden Foxe (leg - test)